Friday, January 11, 2013

New Year driving resolutions

Image courtesy of FrameAngel /
I know I am already late in penning down my driving resolutions for 2013, what with 725 km already covered on the wheels (25 out of these on 3 wheels because of the potholes), around 35 liters of subsidized diesel already up in smoke (does that fuel average indicate "Regular maintenance of my car" should be there in my list?) and the monkey on my desktop calendar pointing his finger towards the 11th day of the year with a stupid grin on his face. But thanks to my boss (yes, being "thankful" to the boss is a nice New Year resolution to have), I am right on time in breaking one of the resolutions. Not too early, or too late, depending upon your own track record ... 

Here we go with what I intend to do, or not do, on the roads this year ...

Do not overtake from left:

On the roads where the heaviest and the slowest moving vehicles always take the right-most lane, where the cyclists and pedestrians refuse to use the lanes so lovingly carved out by the government exclusively for them, and where the big public transport monster always crosses you when you are sure even a dog can not pass through the gap, it comes as a culture shock for somebody like my father, who has always diligently followed all the traffic rules, to even think of overtaking from the left. His agony multiplies a 100 times when the offender is you, and you get "that" stare (you know what I mean) back from him. So, the next time when Chunnu Munnu De Papa Kee Gaddi, with those steel rods hanging ominously half-way out of the truck, is trudging along in the fast-lane, you, with your Papa in the car, decide not to overtake from the left, and wait for the truck driver to let you go from the right, when the opportunity comes. When that opportunity doesn't come for the next 1.5 kms, and it is already time for your Papa to see Arnab asking nation's questions to the hapless whatevers, you get a gentle nudge from your left side to break the rule. Phew! What 30 years of nagging by his better half could not do has been accomplished in a day by Chunnu Munnu's Papa.

Image courtesy of Naypong /
Be polite and gentle towards the "lesser mortals" on the road:

Well, this doesn't come easily to someone who has always seen motorists considering the roads as their own property, and refusing to share the ownership with anyone else, least of all the lesser mortals like pedestrians or the law abiding citizens. But this all changed, when I went to another country a few days back and observed the kind of respect these lesser mortals get in a country which may be the size of my city, when I count the number of people, and the size of my company, when I count the number of registered vehicles in the country. And mind you, I am not even talking about a typical developed country - I believe their GDP will be the sum total of the annual CTCs of all the readers of this blog put together.

One fine morning, we were cruising at around 90 kmph and discussing about the latest scandal in which a senior minister was involved (well, not all things in that country are different). To my horror, my cab driver suddenly applied the brakes, waived gently at a pedestrian standing calmly on the foot path, and requested him to cross the road before he could even put his foot back on the accelerator. Similarly, I was taken aback when he gently blew his horn to acknowledge the other driver for letting him take a U-turn (and NOT for "shouting" at him - the purpose we usually use the horn for). Almost unheard of in our part of the world. It brought me to tears, and I felt like kicking myself black and blue, recalling the kind of atrocities the pedestrians back home have to face because of drivers like me. When I shared the reason of my uneasiness with the cab driver (of course, on being asked), he was astonished to hear that the first right to walk on the road in our country doesn't belong to the poor pedestrian!

Image courtesy of digitalart /
Do not start ignition before the red light changes to amber:

With the amber signal almost becoming non-existent in my city (even if they are present, they are sparingly followed or used because the signal changes from red directly to green), I am sure many of the motorists around would have experienced this. You are standing first in the queue on a red signal. As soon as the timer starts inching towards 10s, and you do not show any inclination to make a move forward, even a tenth of a mm, the rest of the motorists, with far more urgent work than you have, will start honking. It starts with a small sound some 150m behind you, and becomes a cacophony in 2s. And it will reach a crescendo even before the timer has crawled to 5s. Do they feel you are actually enjoying a picnic standing first in that queue? I some times feel like getting down from my car, and sitting right there in front of the queue, refusing to budge till the signal turns red once again.

Do not stare back:

Don't worry, I am still sticking with my driving resolutions, and am not copying the third bullet point from my answer to the question "How to make your spouse happy?" Not staring back at the traffic offender is something I learnt the hard way while driving to my kid's school a few days back. A typical case of a stupid driver (it is never our mistake, is it?) overtaking from the wrong side, giving me a mouthful when it was he who almost added one more dent on my already bruised 7-year old car. As usual, I stared back at the bike driver, all ready with my retorts, having no idea that he was wearing a familiar looking head band, the pillion rider was holding a big flag with a ferocious looking animal on it - I bet I am not challenging you to identify their political affiliations - accompanied with 10 more samples, I mean drivers, behind him. The rest, as they say, is not worth mentioning. Well, to make it sound more agreeable to my ego, it was the kid's first ever stage appearance in the school, and I had to just move ahead, "humbled" by the experience.

P.S.: And did I say, all this happened, with a police van standing right in front of me!!

Image courtesy of digitalart /
Change response to high-beam users:

Even if my father would have always followed the traffic rule-book, this is one thing I have seen him doing very frequently. If the driver coming in your direction does not understand that high beam is not supposed to be used on city roads, and goes ahead to irritate you further when he fails to understand your request for a dipper, my superman decides to take the matter in his own hands, takes his car to the center of the road, and stops. He refuses to budge till the time some niceties have been exchanged and the other version of superman in front of me has learnt the biggest lesson on driving (and some more on you know what), and agrees to switch from high beam to a dipper. Needless to say, after trying to be a true inheritor of his bravado on a few occasions, I have decided not to venture further. I will probably add the high-beam users to the list of lesser mortals I mentioned earlier, and be polite and gentle towards them, and also do my best not to stare back at them. See it all finally comes together ...

Do not talk or text while driving:

Yes, this is nothing new, and hence, I don't get any marks for creativity here. But doesn't this appear on the resolutions list of all the drivers even today? Like all other resolutions, we have found our ways out of this guilt year-on-year. Just that, every year, the sentence gets suffixed (or prefixed) with a new phrase. Or it gets modified with words like using hands-free, listening to music on the iPod (this one comes from my spouse) and so on. We refuse to accept that we can ever be a party to an accident scene involving ourselves. We keep on having this as a resolution every year, because we break it for some avoidable reason or silly excuse as soon as it appears in our current list. And this is the reason, why this will appear in my driving resolutions list for 2014 as well. But when it is appraisal time, and your boss's name flashes on the screen, you can not NOT pick up the phone, more so when you have decided to honor your company's HR policy on flexible timing and sneaked out of the office a full 2 hours before the scheduled time.

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