Acquiring a driver license is a painstaking exercise that takes great deal of expense and effort. One must have the ability to juggle driving-practice days, night driving classes, innumerable test appointments, repeated narrow failures, displeased bosses and missed deadlines.
Of course, It also tests one’s driving and parking skills. The eventual acquisition gives you a deep sense of pride and achievement as also of liberation and relief. The smooth and scrupulously maintained Dubai roads are now yours to ride and savour. I got my license recently and really felt on top of the ‘road’ (world).
Now I could zip the tarmac and google-map my way to all corners of my city of residence. Driving instructors drill the traffic rules into your head with great insistence and it truly helps. So, here I was, master of my mobility as the immaculate Dubai roads and the grid of flyovers beckoned.
Understandably, I was a hesitant beginner and would follow the rules down to the tee. Speed limits were inviolable in my nascent drives and I would always adhere to them diligently. But what do I observe among other road-users? It was, well, fascinating.
There are drivers who have a natural aversion to use of indicators and have great faith in the skills of the drivers following them. These ‘photo-phobes’ believe that flashing an indicator light is a cruel waste of electric energy and these energy savings will go a long way in accomplishing carbon neutrality.
That sudden turns and unpredictable lane changes without indication help sharpen the reflexes of following drivers, is another reason given for their deep antipathy to indicating.
Then there are ‘hastings’. They are always in a haste and on an average make eleven lane-changes per kilometre in order to invent the fastest route on a straight road. They are convinced that this world is bent upon stalling their advance in life and they must find ways to get around these vehicular impediments. There is no greater pleasure for a novice like me to meet them again, stuck as they are in a busy lane, as I languorously catch up.
Some of those ‘aviators’ are apparently in a wrong machine. While they take to the road with an intent to fly, their cars have been deliberately powered inadequately so that they cannot hit speeds of over 180km/h. Then there are those cameras that do not take to speed violations kindly.
‘Languids’ like their life to take an easy pace but have an uncanny habit of choosing the fast lanes. Their lack of speed is probably due to nearing their destination at 0800 hrs for a 0930 hrs appointment. However, the traffic following them that does not enjoy the same time luxury.
‘Sticklers’ are expectedly ‘sticky’. Some of them have taken to lowest permissible highway speed as a given. They set their car to a speed of 61km/h on the freeway and occupy their lane with steadfastness of an anchored oil-tanker. Once on the righteous path of permissible speed, they refuse to change their trajectory. Though their stickiness to rules is entirely admirable but having to change lanes to get around these road-hogs is a severe test of patience.
Readers will agree that human evolution has been the result of conscientious observation and scientific inference. These observations on attributes of drivers and their behaviour patterns, too, have been put to use for greater human good.
I have made a mention of my longish process of learning to drive. All instructors at the driving school grew deeply sympathetic to my shaky driving and tried desperately to see me pass the test. This resulted in a strange bond between us and on succeeding eventually, I went to the school to express my gratitude.
I was invited to give a feedback and my reflections on drivers-diversity and its challenges were appreciated. The school incorporated them in its teaching manual on safe driving and guess what it titled the chapter?
Sanity is safety.
Dr Rakesh Maggon is a specialist ophthalmologist with an interest in literature