Sunday, August 3, 2014

I Know Nothing

When I first moved to India, someone gave me the best advice - assume you don't know anything. My American sensibilities dominated how I perceived things and I've discovered, for the most part, that I've assumed the wrong things. More and more I learn how little I know about India and the people here.Take, for example, the traffic. Driving is a crazy experience!

The first thing that greets you morning or night is the sound of horns. They honestly never stop honking. They do a little tap when they drive along side someone. They do a double tap when someone starts drifting into them (there are no "lanes" per say). They send off a stream of taps when someone makes a move to turn in front of them. They start their impatient honking when they think the red light should be turning green and they want the cars in front of them to go anyway. They lay on the horn when you're in front of them driving slow and you don't move aside with their polite honking. It's definitely a loud language that they like to "speak" often.

One of my first resolutions was to find a driver that did NOT honk, because as bad as it is when other cars are honking, it's far worse when your horn never stops blaring. To top it off, all the trucks have "Horn OK Please" on the back, as if drivers needed any encouragement!


In all seriousness, I told Sabby, "Someone should start painting 'Horn NOT OK Please' on trucks." He laughed and laughed. He thought I was so funny and said, "Good one, ma'am!" 

It was several weeks later when we were sitting at the front of a red light and an impatient autorickshaw driver way in the back honks a sad little horn trying to get people to run the red light. 

 Me: "Sabby, you need to get a really crazy sounding horn that lets people know you mean business - nothing wimpy like that guy's."

Sabby laughing: "That would be fantastic, ma'am!"

Me: "Let's do it, Sabby! Let's get you a really original horn."

Sabby: "Ma'am, that is not allowed."

Me: "What do you mean, not allowed?"

Sabby: "The government, ma'am. People tried to have different horns and it became very loud. Nobody liked it. The government had to make sure the horns stayed inside the bounds otherwise people would have very large and very loud horns."

Me, realizing things could actually be a lot worse: "Oh. Then while they were at it, the government should have made a law where they couldn't honk so much."

Sabby: "Well, ma'am, it's the problem of the trucks. They cause big problems. They don't care about cars. They stop where they want and they drive where they want very slowly. They cause big traffic problems. No one can move around them. The government had to make a law so they would move."

Me: "You mean the government made a law that you have to honk your horn at them?

Sabby: "Yes, ma'am"

Me: "Are you serious?!? Is that why the trucks all have 'Horn OK Please' on them?"

Sabby: "Correct, ma'am. There is a very big fine they are paying if they don't have that painted. Now everyone paints it. They don't want to give cops an excuse for a fine. There is also a big fine if you honk and the truck does not move. Now everybody honks."

Oh. Once again, I thought I understood but found out I really knew nothing. So I started looking at all the trucks who had to tell people to honk at them or pay a large fine. I looked at them as if I knew nothing. 



And I decided the honking didn't bother me anymore. In fact I told Sabby he could honk anytime he wanted, within reason, of course.

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