The busy intersection is busier because people are confused as to what is to be followed (if at all) at the moment—the traffic lights or the hand signals of the police officer on duty. When the latter is not there, we stop at the red light, only to be honked at by the cars behind us. After all, we are a bunch of morons not going with the flow, and yes, not going with the flow of traffic. Cars on the left most lane make the tightest right turns and vice versa. Should there be a fender bender or worse, then the person at fault is the one with the less expensive car or less number of cylinders, wheels, horsepower, displacement (cc) or simply with a lesser polish, a less louder voice, or a less fouler mouth.
But Salauddin Bhai ("Sal"), our driver, is a thorough gentleman with zero road rage and with an always obliging, “After you, sir!” demeanour. As such, we are stuck in traffic longer than others who are there for an eternally long time anyway.
Even once when a man standing right in the middle of the intersection, clearly at fault of jaywalking, curses the daylights out of Sal, he remains calm like Mahatma Gandhi, rolls down the window, and tells the guy standing there like a stone statue, to just move aside and to be careful. He then starts driving. I am furious, I order him to stop the car so that I would get down and give the stone statue a piece of my mind. Sal calmly says, “Relax. He is on drugs. I could smell it in his breath.” So, the stone statue is stoned. I wonder who will be blamed if he is run over…
But even Sal has his momentary lapses. On another day, he sees the green light, but not the hand of the police officer signalling to stop at that busy intersection. The police officer grimaces, Sal smiles, waves at him with a gesture to forgive him and drives off.
But it is the wife who is in the car this time. General Wife barks at Sal to stop and doles out her summary court martial: “Take your driver's license and the car registration and go to the police officer and tell him to give you a traffic violation ticket! On the double!!”
Sal is confused, bemused, shocked and in all other states faced by a shell shocked GI. He walks to the officer as the wife watches. It obviously takes several minutes for the officer to even comprehend (he probably pinches himself in disbelief) as to what this lunatic was asking. After some haggling, Sal comes back smiling. “Madam, he let me go and told me to not repeat the offence.” "Madam" yells at him to go back to the cop and insist on issuing a ticket. Sal goes back and the cop simply can't belief that he would see the day when the haggling would be for a reverse cause where the cop does NOT want to book Sal but Sal is adamant about getting booked.
Another bout of haggling—a scene where one can see a cop being pestered by a little man at a busy intersection. Finally, the cop gives up, walks back to the car and asks "Madam" that it's ok, he didn't do anything drastic.
Madam asks a simple question, “Did he [Sal] break the rule by not stopping when asked to stop?”
“Then you give him a ticket, right here, right now. Do what you are supposed to do!”
The officer scratches his head and issues the ticket, surely suppressing the urge to burst out laughing.
Sal is not a happy camper. For madam has not only had him booked, but he has to pay 50 percent of the fine (of Taka 400) out of his own pocket as a lesson learned. And it's not just the money, it's also the hassle and time to get the process completed.
As an afterthought, the officer tells the wife: “Madam, if only there were five other people like you, this country would be so different…” and he walks away, I am sure, totally bemused.
Meanwhile, Sal does not talk much for the next two weeks—not until August hits. This time, the ice melts—Madam is not “Et tu Brute?” but rather, “Et tu Confucius?” The exercise that he had gone through is no longer lunacy, but a tiny step to avoid and perhaps eliminate the lunacy on the roads.
A lesson learned. It is the same lesson and the recent goings on that prompt me to download the landline application form from BTCL's website with my vow to stick it out through the entire process of getting the connection while not buckling to any temptation for a "speedy" process. After all, to commit a wrongdoing, it takes two to tango…
Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club.