Friday, May 14, 2010

Dead Man's Curve

Here in the Philippines, hazardous stretches of road are designated by signs that bear a curious warning: ACCIDENT PRONE AREA. A preponderance of motor accidents in one place would provoke warnings against reckless driving anywhere else. But for Filipinos, as well as many other Asians, the road itself is prone to cause accidents. Especially if any people have died in the accidents, the area is believed to be populated by restless spirits who may be jealous of the living.

Late one night one year ago, a popular young Filipino actor named Richard Gutierrez was driving his sports car at excessive speed through one such area when, somewhat predictably, an accident occurred. Gutierrez was driving, with his personal assistant in the passenger seat, when the sports car left the road. Gutierrez sustained a cut above his eye, but his assistant was pronounced dead at the scene.

Released from hospital the morning after the accident, the actor's celebrity family held a thanksgiving mass, after which he made statements to the tabloid press to the effect that his survival of the accident with only a minor cut was no accident but divine intervention.

As if the mass thanking God for Richard's survival (and, coincidentally, his assistant's death, as it were, in his place) were not crass enough, the young actor was quick to pronounce the coincidence a sign that he was spared in order to fulfill some greater design.

The young widow of his assistant was less certain of the hand of God and hired a lawyer to look into the matter. When young Richard's prior citation for reckless driving, in the same vehicle no less, was found, and an excellent case for negligent manslaughter was in the offing (no pun intended), Richard was less concerned with the prospect of going to jail than of the damage that the negative publicity might do to his good name.

Needless to say, an out of court settlement was made to the satisfaction of both parties. Young Richard's star continued its rise in the firmament of Filipino celebrity nobodies just as God intended. But the highway curve that took the life of his assistant remains just as before, its menace undiminished by road improvement, poised to take more lives should they take no heed of the sign.

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