Saturday, June 30, 2007

Road Rage

It's been a while since I was really didactic here. You know, laying down the laws like only I can and do. Many of my current readers may never even have read about my rules for shopping or smoking or tipping, say. Well, right now all my energy is focused on a pure, sheer anger at all those offspring of bachelors who dare endanger the roads for The Bhablet.

The other night, we were driving back home. The Bhablet was sleeping in the sling, and he and I were buckled in while V drove. Suddenly this idiot of a man decided to cross the road right in our way and came very close to being mowed down. Ordinarily my anger would have been due to the fact that had anything happened to him, it would have been us as the owners of the car -- the 'big' folks, the 'rich' ones -- who would have been in trouble. Even though V was driving responsibly and it was the jerk who nearly came under our wheels. But right then I was suddenly furious. How dare that creature nearly cause an accident when there was a baby in the car? To my shock I realised that I was angry enough to stop the car, turn around and beat him into a pulp. I'm not joking about this, I really was that angry.

Now I am hot-tempered, and calm down as swiftly as I heat up, but there are rare occasions when I lose my temper in a way that even a Scorpio like V cannot match. This was nearly one of them. In that mood I am dangerous, and by that I mean I have absolutely no qualms about hurting you, and I don't just mean physically. The last time I got that angry was when this car was weaving erratically through the lanes on Camac Street one afternoon, and nearly caused V to go off the road by his unpredictable driving. That time I did lose it. I stopped the car, bawled that driver out and was so angry, I shook for a good twenty minutes afterwards. Afterwards I was sorry for the language I used. (The man started yelling at me as soon as he realised what I'd come to say. Attack being the best form of defence, I imagine.) But I was in the right. If he had caused an accident, there would have been two infants in our car who would have been endangered. I'd rather he lived with a yelling than that on his conscience.

So, what I'm getting at is this: all these near-accidents occur because these people are in a hurry. But if you really sit down and calculate the time they take to weave erratically through traffic down one crowded street, the time they really save comes up to maybe a minute, mostly even less. If the traffic were less chaotic, and it would be if they were calmer, they would reach sooner. That guy who nearly came under our wheels was trying to cross the road at nearly midnight. There were no cars behind us, so all he had to do was wait five seconds. How long is five bloody seconds?

We all leave home late for our appointments. Most of us are perpetually in a hurry, anxious to get home, to catch the maid, to meet our deadlines, to please somebody who matters to us. Well, guess what, none of that will happen if you're involved in an accident on the road. Stop thinking that it doesn't happen to us. It happens to us, to our friends, family, neighbours.

Calculate the time you think you are saving. When you dash down the road without regard for the traffic swirling around you, trying to avoid you, you are probably saving at most a minute or two. You miss your bus, ok, you are very late and you get into trouble. I still think that's better than causing somebody else's death or even injury.

Start thinking of your hurry in these terms. Honking impatiently at the car in front of you when it's obvious that the real reason you're all held up is because of a breakdown six cars ahead is not going to create an empty lane for you. But it will irritate the driver in front, who is probably in a hurry too and is perhaps not really dedicating his morning to holding you up. Generating some road rage may not be the best gift you can give society.

Am I sounding too idealistic here? I'm trying to think as a driver and a pedestrian. I know how nervous I get when I've got into a mess in the middle of traffic. I know the other drivers are irritated. I'm trying my hardest to clear the road as soon as I can. Honking at me all the while is only counter-productive, I promise you. And these days, I realise, mostly I'm thinking as a mother. When I watch scooterists drive with their entire six-member family perched on any old how onto a two-wheeler, the mother inside me is shocked at their recklessness. When idiots dash to cross the road just in front of our bonnet I could scream at them. I don't much care for them endangering their own lives, but I worked damn hard to create and then preserve a Bhablet -- who are they to endanger him?


dipali said...

Totally agree with you. Well expressed

Anansi said...

Sunny, aye aye... By the way I think traffic and road rage in Kolkata is tolerable compared to any other city in India... Still doesn't justify road rage though. Also let's not forget the potholes and repair in the name of potholes that cause so many accidents all over.

Mystic Margarita said...

Something similar happened to me once - I swear if I had a gun, I would have shot the guy. Now, if something like this happens with Popol on board, I'm calling 911 pronto. Nice post. :)

Sue said...

Dipali -- Well, I hope it makes you slow down. Then I'll know I got through. :)

Sreejita -- I know the roads also contribute to road rage, but here my focus is on people in a hurry. I don't think they realise how little time they are actually saving, and the extent of danger they willingly incur just to save a minute or two.

Mystic -- It does change your perspective, doesn't it?

Ron said...

I totally agree with you. Im just learning to drive, and I can handle the car quite well when there are no mad drivers or cow like pedestrains around me. I really cannot handle traffic. From what I have seen of Kolkata traffic is a lot more disciplined than Bangalore where I live. Here its not just crazy drivers, its also autos, dogs, cows, cow like humans, cyclists,potholes and even the occassional bullock cart that you have to contend with. And the term lane discipline has no meaning for people here. i really dont understand how the people driving so crazily or crossing the roads so blindly witht heir children can endanger their lives and that of their loved ones without a thought.

Squiggles Mom said...

I agree. It absolutely makes me boil that people are so irresponsible. We have a baby on board sticker on our car but I have no hopes that it makes any difference.

the mad momma said...

yeah Sue.. in a perfect world...
I get so mad that the OA and I leave home in time, drive carefully and still have to suffer because of someone else's mistakes - and we have two babies on board.

Sue said...

Ron -- Doesn't learning to drive make you extra careful as a pedestrian? It did that to me.

Squiggle's Mom -- We have one too, and no, it doesn't. It doesn't help that it's in Spanish. :)

MM -- Exactly. In my case though, I can't even leave on time because V has the time sense of a sarkari kormochari.