Well, this blog post is a bit long in coming to the blog – but it has been ruminating in my mind for quite some time now…. On last Saturday me and Mom were invited for lunch at one of her colleague’s place in Delaware. We went, had lunch, chatted with them and left.
From our place in Dumont to their place in Delaware, we followed the GPS and went via the I-95 to get there in about a couple of hours drive (which is over a 100 miles)! But on our way back, Mom had an idea – she figured that at a certain Exit on the I-95 we could get on to the Garden State Parkway – which is a more straightforward route to our home.
And so, when that Exit came up, off we went on the ramp. Although it was the weekend, the I-95 had pretty less traffic. But not so on the Garden State Pkwy. We were right in the middle of a 5 lane highway which had a lot of cars.
Now, the whole concept of a traffic jam in the US of A and the concept of a traffic jam in India are poles apart. So, guess what… we are in a traffic jam on the G.S. Pkwy. Cars are moving quite slowly. And we are nicely in the middle lane and all the lanes are moving along once in a while. So Mom finally turns on the local radio station on the car radio, where we discover that an accident has taken place.
So all of us are stuck in the jam – for a stretch of over 10 miles, there are over thousands of cars stuck at what is typically the ‘Dinner Hour’ here in the US. Cars are moving along – one lane at a time is slowly moving forward. None of the cars are breaking out of their lanes. We were stuck in that scene for over 2 hours.
And in that entire time, I did not hear one single toot from a car horn. CAN U BELIEVE IT??? No one honked.
In fact, when we came close to the exit where the accident happened, everyone co-operated with each other. Two lanes of traffic had been closed so that the Police and the Ambulance and the Car Towing people could do their jobs. So, cars from the middle and second lanes moved to accommodate the cars which were coming in from the other two lanes.
And not a single person honked or screamed or yelled.
Everyone was frustrated at the delay.
But everyone co-operated with each other. Everyone made way for the other person to go.
And everyone stayed in their lanes and followed traffic rules.
While all of this was going on, I flashbacked to my days in Pune. The last apartment I lived in was bang in the middle of a crossroad… where from 6 in the evening till about 9.30 in the evening, every single day, there was a bumper to bumper traffic jam. A jam so bad, that if anyone wanted to go out with me or anything, we had to work out a time thing, or a place thing just to avoid that traffic jam.
And no one ever co-operated with each other, or followed traffic rules or anything of the sort. In fact the car horn cacophony would often get so loud that even I could hear it from my house!
And trust me when I was sitting there in the traffic jam on the G.S. Pkwy recalling the everyday traffic jams, I was so moved, I almost wept.
I mean, I may not be a great fan of all things ‘Amreekan’, but trust me, this kind of co-operation and conscientiousness was really appreciable!
This is one thing about the US of A which I have rather come to like – people here follow rules – not because they are scared of the cops or because they are stupid, but because they realize that the rules are there for a good reason, and they know the reason, and because it is the right thing to do. They have what I call a ‘social conscience’ which I rarely see in India.
I mean, what do you do in India when you want to finish that can of Pepsi or want to throw away a piece of chewing gum or a paper wrapper while you are traveling in a car? Naturally, most people just wind down the window, and throw it out on the street.
You won’t see people here do that.
And if something must be thrown, they look for a dustbin and dump it there.
If you really want to know what being nice is all about, get yourself into a traffic jam and find out!