Some drivers break rules most of the time; they dismiss road signs, crisscross lane markings, and threaten human beings in other vehicles. Today I will introduce the two basic rules of driving with specific examples, one as a passenger and the other as the driver. These rules may be followed by all drivers and you too if you happen to be that unfortunate passenger!
The first rule: Beware of other drivers!
Chitra, a dear friend of mine, migrated to Canada seven years ago. And with the single-mindedness of a beaver, she went after securing that Canadian driver’s license. After hurtling over Indian roads with her two-wheeler and four-wheeler, she was confident of conquering the Canadian highways. Soon, with the coveted G license in hand, she called and asked me to accompany her to take delivery of her car.
To confirm that chivalry is alive and kicking, I offered to drive the new car back from the auto dealer. I thought she might be in awe of the new car; secretly I wanted to drive it. If she heard it, she dismissed it.
On signing the necessary paperwork and taking possession of the car, she grabbed the key from the salesman and hurried outside. The car was one of the smaller zippy models. I folded myself into the passenger seat, buckled up, and tightened the strap further. Chitra settled into the driver’s seat, fiddled with the controls, brought the seat forward almost touching the steering wheel, and secured the seat belt. Then she took the steering with both hands, much like a weight lifter. I may even have seen her guardian angel fussing around her announcing,”Huston, we have lift off!”
Open spaces excite Chitra. According to her, roads are just the means to an end. I presume she meant ‘end of a journey’, and not ‘end of my life’. The motor roared and we took off. The stop-and-give-way sign guarding the ramp to the highway did a double take. During the drive, I did not see her once looking to the left, right, or any of the mirrors. The brake pad served as a sort of foot scratcher. The signaling device gathered dust.
With a crazed smile on her windswept face, the steering wheel secure in both hands, Chitra looked like a dangerous version of Kate Winslet on the deck of Titanic. From the slow lane she zipped across three lanes and continued to hug the fast lane till we reached the end of our journey. By then, the valiant knight I thought I was, had oozed under the seat belts and was reduced to a puddle on the floor.
The second rule: Keep your Cool!
Let’s fast forward a few years to a bright summer’s evening. I was driving back from work listening to Classical FM and feeling at peace with the melting world. I opened all windows to drain negative energy. From a distance I could see the road dipping and climbing. At the top of the hill where the road split and emptied into the highway, a funeral home lay partially buried. On random days, traffic cops used its driveway to hide behind bushes, plant cameras, and catch errant drivers.
The third lane sported diamond markings and was, during certain times, reserved for authorized vehicles and those that car pool with two passengers or more. Speeding drivers and unauthorized vehicles occupying this slow lane during peak hours are caught. Today three drivers were lined up and fined. Whenever they catch an errant driver, a wonderful feeling of righteousness sweeps over me.
Suddenly a white SUV swerved from the diamond lane to the middle lane almost hitting me. The lone occupant saw the stalled cars and the traffic camera at the last moment. In reflex, I stepped on the horn. We looked at each other; I, accusingly and he, with disdain. Then, with a deliberate slow motion, he gave me the finger.
No amount of self control can preside over such situations. I stopped breathing. Reason hid behind a giant wall of fury. My face became colorful with various hues of red. In a moment of insanity, I swerved the steering wheel and banged my car against his. Then I stopped, jumped out, pulled him out of his vehicle, spread him all over the ground, and cut off his middle fingerâ€¦.
Persistent honking from the cars behind brought me to my senses. I was sitting in my car in the middle of the road causing a traffic jam. I had suffered some kind of a blackout or else dreamt up the whole thing. My object of destruction had already raced out of sight.
I started the car and drove forward. I took deep breaths. I felt the air spreading through my body cooling the senses, crumbling the wall of fury, and returning my face to its original color. I detached my body from the mind and passively watched the dangerous thoughts flitting by.
The moral of the stories: be considerate to other drivers; road signs are meant to be followed; lanes are marked for a purpose; brakes are installed for a reason; wheels are invented to be firmly rolled on the ground; use your car, but not as a battering ram; and signals are simply an indication of your intentions, it does not give you the power to barge in. And with practice you can control your thoughts, body, and mind.