Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lucifers at the wheels

We Malaysian often unabashedly award ourselves the title of the most hospitable and friendly people on planet earth. We bend over backward to accomodate every whim and fancy of visitors to our homes, and gesticulate ourselves silly when get stopped by lost tourists asking for directions. But the very instance we are put behind the driving wheels, Satanic horns grow from our heads as the ignition key is turned, scales-covered tails appear from our posteriors as we get off the driveway, by the time we hit the highway, a full-fledged devil with fangs, wings and a trident is sitting in the driver seat. On the road practically every car driver is Beelzebub incarnate.

You've seen it before. Two vehicles are stopped by the busy roadside, apparently the result of an accident as one of the cars bonnet folds like an accordion, fumes billow and radiador fizzle. The two motorists are involved in an animated war of words almost leading to blows.

Gender does not count, nor does race or religion. This is indeed one area where we Malaysians can proudly lay claim to be united! Whether it’s the pint-size Chinese grandma, the wily Indian postman, the Malay yuppie, Iban, Kadazan, labourers, professional, businessmen, car drivers, truck drivers, young or old, it doesn't matter. All the aforementioned only have one aspiration (beside wanting to go from A to B) when driving on the road: to give Road Courtesy a bad name.

Hostility is the order of the day (or everyday) and one-upmanship is the name of the game while you are on the Malaysian road. Just try slowing down on your approach to a traffic light junction as the light turns amber, chances are, a Lewis Hamilton wannabe will zoom pass you to take pole position. Amber lights have the same meaning as green lights, and Malaysians’ optical faculty needs several seconds to recognize an amber light just turned red. Changing lanes and turning corners without flashing signals? Why that’s perhaps the all-time favourite pastime in this part of the world. Scaring fellow road users out of their wits is almost an obligation because we have accepted driving to be an obstacle race long time ago.

And what could be more fun than parking our pride and joy, a battered wounded MouseDeer (with an assembly of dangling Pink Panthers, Snow White’s Seven Dwarf, Garfield’s pillows displayed at the rear windscreen. We call them Kancil here) in two slots of parking spaces? After all, we need to pay for only one space and it makes reversing out so much easier later. Blocking traffic flow by double parking? Hey, everybody is doing it! And don’t tell me you never do it. “I paid road tax too” and “Yes, it’s my grandfather’s road” seem to be the answers on their lips if you send telepathic messages of curses and death threats to them.. And tailgating is our most courteous way of tell people “Bloody @#$%&!, you know how to drive or not?”

And then there’s the punter/driver. You are driving along a road and suddenly for no apparent reason, as it is not rush hour, a traffic jam materializes in front of you.. What usually takes only two minutes to drive through now takes almost ten.

The reason? There's been an accident and half the road is blocked. They say curiosity kills the cat but say that to an rabid 4-D punter and he thinks you're just jealous he strikes it rich weeks after weeks; and accidents are his source of inspiration and lifeline to get more numbers to bet on, (of course he'll not tell you he's already six months behind in his mortgage payment and loan sharks just emptied a pail of red paint into his garage).

Thus these punters invariably slow down, salivating to get a eyeful of his fellow countrymen’s misery at the same time committing the victims' car plate numbers to memory as they pass by (and rushing to the nearest bet shop), thus jamming up the traffic even more. We Malaysians like to profit (more like lose) from each others' misfortune. Its like, today is your turn, tomorrow could me mine, so, fair and square.

Of course there are other minor issues like showering affections on their little ones by getting them to sit on their laps as they drive. Its quite evident parents nowadays want to give their children an early head start in learning how to drive, even if it comes to something that will not bother them until their little legs can reach to the pedals.

And then there is a category of drivers who, under strict instruction from their ophthalmologists, forbid them to look into bright sunshine, hence the heavy tinting of their vehicles windscreens and windows. Apparently a certificate to this effect is enough to placate the disapproving look of the traffic police. Coincidentally a cursory study of the people emerging from these vehicles (invariably black in colour too) shows that an overwhelming majority are not senior citizens but tattooed dudes with nubile companions in tow. And don’t get me started on their noisy exhaust pipes. But it is still an open debate why many crimes are committed by the owners of such roadsters.

Anyway, these are the reasons why baseball bats are selling so well even though there are hardly 10 batsmen in the whole of Malaysia, and I suspect half couldn't even hit a ball squarely but that’s another story. Have a nice day and take care.

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