We’re driving around in my car, a colleague and I. You know the drill. Random shop talk, traffic noises and…weird beeping sounds?
“Did you clear that docu I was talking about earlier?”, I ask her
“Nah, I have to get moving on that. Thanks for the reminder”
“No problem. Just get it done before Wednesday”
“What’s that beeping sound?”
“It’s a seat-belt chime. Honda’s telling you to wear your seat-belt.”
“You don’t want to wear it?”
“Nah, no police around here”
One thing I figured out early in life is that people look at traffic rules in different ways. There are people who lean towards following traffic rules rigidly and without question. There are people who can’t quite differentiate between a traffic rule and a general guideline. And, of course, there are people who fall somewhere in-between.
In India, people follow traffic rules for one reason and one reason only – to avoid court visits and consequent fines.
See, when it comes to non-work related issues, the vast majority of us here in India aren’t just cheap, we’re also incredibly lazy. It’s in our blood. We may work 90 hour weeks, but goddamn it, when we get home, the couch better be ready to bear the burden of a sweaty backside and the AC better be running. Heck, we even have Air Conditioners which turn on with an SMS.
But lazy doesn’t come in one variety. Here’s a bit of life gyaan for you folks.
There are two extremes of lazy in the world – completely inexperienced, overly optimistic lazy and very experienced, highly cynical lazy. It’s like a sliding scale, and most people tend toward one or the other. What’s more, the two categories vary drastically in their approach to life in general and traffic rules in particular.
The inexperienced lazy person breaks rules left, right and center because following them is like, well, work. S/he omits wearing helmets and seat-belts, talks on a cellphone without bothering to pull over, takes the car out without bothering to sober up, drives at insane speeds for fun and frankly, just kind of creates trouble wherever s/he goes. The
inexperienced lazy person is a walking talking health hazard. You can find these people at trying to get bail at police stations, recovering from their latest accident at trauma centers and chilling off while driving DTC buses. This is the kind of person you don’t want to bang into, because that may well be the last thing you do. Don’t get me wrong here. These guys aren’t all evil. In fact, they’re vital to modern society. Inexperienced lazy people are good for the economy, just not for you. If you went ‘huh’ at this point, you really need to think about this a bit more.
Journalists like these folks because they make neat little filler stories for them everyday. Physiotherapists, orthopedic surgeons and lawyers owe half their clients base to them. Safety Engineers love them because they’re the one thing that lets safety engineers afford the ultra safe and ultra expensive devices they invent everyday. Repair contractors would be out of business if these guys didn’t exist… like I said, they’re vital.
Contrast this with the experienced, cynical lazy person, who I’ll call ECLP for short. The experienced lazy person is every bit as lazy as the inexperienced lazy person, but unlike the latter, this individual knows that indiscriminate violation of traffic rules creates even more work than following the rules does. Through long bitter experience, the ECLP has lost all semblance of optimism and realizes that while rule-breakers are not always punished, the rule-breaker who really, REALLY does not want to be caught on a particular day is sure to get pulled over, make an unsuccessful attempt at bribery and then be made jump through hoops in court to regain a driving license. Therefore, the ECLP religiously wears their seat-belt, double checks insurance papers and blood alcohol levels and generally behaves like an ideal, law-abiding citizen – as long as there is a cop within earshot. No cops, no rules; this individual lives on the idea that nothing is a crime (and therefore, work) unless you get caught.
The ECLP can be seen, complete with the characteristic ‘screw the world’ smirk and unbelievable street-smartness, in corner offices, presidential villas and other nice places you’d like to visit before you kick the bucket.
In other words, the ECLP is badass and by golly, knows it.
India is full of both kinds of people as well as a lot of intermediate ones.
Hear about the drunk kid who smashed his car into a bridge? Inexperienced amateur. Totally the first kind.
Cop who arrested him? On the way to ECLP status.
Cop’s boss? You know it.
What are you going to be? The choice is yours.
But always remember; that seat belt chime? It’s just to keep you from paying a fine. Wear it or don’t – depending on the concentration of Khaki in your area. It’s not really your head that needs protection. After all, Indian heads are the hardest in the world.
But your wallet and your time – now that’s a whole different story.