Everywhere you go has its own form of transportation. In Bangladesh it’s the rickshaw, in England it’s the tube or the bus, and in Cambodia it is the Moto.
“Moto” sounds much manlier than it should. These small, efficient bikes are scooters. Nothing more. For 50-cents you can go about anywhere. They aren’t hard to find. Every corner has a few moto-drivers gambling at cards, napping, reading newspapers. But no matter what they are doing or how focused they are doing it, they will spot you from half-a-block away, throw their hand in the air and holler “MOTO! MOTO! HELLO, SIR! MOTO!”
Walking the streets of Phnom Penh, I can hold my breath in between Moto-offers and not go blue in the face.
Two-thirds of the time I try to give the driver a negative headshake or a “no thanks,” but the rest of the time I just ignore them. Tonight I was returning to my hotel after eating a disappointing pizza a block away and I didn’t need a Moto. Why should I respond to the driver who pulls in front of me and stops or the guy hollering from…I can’t even tell where? I don’t owe them anything. If I acknowledge every driver, I’ll get nothing done and I’ll go nowhere.
“I don’t owe you anything.”
Wait, where have I heard that before?
At every writers’ conference I’ve ever been to I have heard an agent, a publisher, or an editor say something like, or exactly, this. I could understand where they were coming from, but had nothing to compare it to. Now I do. Manuscripts, proposals, and queries are offered to them from every direction. Maybe they just ate some bad pizza or having a rotten day and they don’t want to take the time to read a writer’s submission or give it the time the writer thinks it deserves.
They don’t owe the writer anything.
I’ll try to reject the Moto-offers more kindly from now on, hoping to boost my writing karma, but I’m not going to make any promises. Part of me really wants to tell them to F#*!-off!