When you complain of a pain in a body part, have you noticed that the specialist you go to takes such pleasure in informing you that this is probably the worst pain you will suffer? I’ve had my dentist say that about my toothache, my ENT doctor say it about an earache and friends have told me of various similar claims about back pain and headaches.
Similarly, I have seen an inexplicable pride in poor road conditions – whether its potholes or road rage or cheery bad driving. Coming as I do from India where the traffic is many times more chaotic, Bahrain drivers are very well-behaved, the vehicles are in much better shape thanks to rigorous traffic department vehicle inspection and our roads are positively works of art. There is the occasional pothole or an unplanned curve but the ordinary citizen can just whip out her/his phone, click a pic and send to the hotline Tawasul and you can be sure it will be fixed fairly soon.
I have realised that complaining about something being bad is a kind of reverse snobbery – for the medical fraternity, it is about a specialist subtly boasting that his or her specific body part is most important and worthy of attention because of the trouble it could cause; complaints about road conditions and drivers in your country of residence is to boastfully imply that your original homeland is a better place.
Actually, while this kind of whining amuses me, the other kind where prejudice takes the upper hand, is irritating. You know the one I mean – where a wrong move or an accident, however minor or major, is attributed to the gender/age/nationality of the driver. I hear it often – and it has set patterns. Male drivers tend to vilify the opponent driver by all three standards whereas female drivers usually stick to nationality or – I don’t know which is worse – colour.
With the F1 circus in town, now is as good a time as any to evaluate our road etiquette.
The race is not just about reckless speed, you know. It is a display of steely skill, discipline and a life dedicated to practice and to living with danger as a constant companion. Clearly, our everyday road use calls for just a fraction of such laser focus. Yet it is as much a test of our character.
Of course, the non-negotiable rule should be that we check our prejudices at the door.
Our modern chariot is a 21st century marvel of automotive technology – how can we continue to carry our outdated baggage of biases when we drive it? Trying to be a role model on the road helps not just us but also other drivers because road rage is really an imitation of poor behaviour.
Speaking of which – why do we not see more women racers in the F1 line-up? The last woman to race in an F1 Grand Prix was Italian driver Lella Lombardi. That was 45 years ago.
Today the FIA does have a ‘Girls on Track’ movement where young girls and women are given the opportunity to hone their racing skills, mentored and guided to take the vital first steps to the F1 track. Until that happens, why not adopt simple steps to break the bias on the road? Stop calling out driving mistakes by gender or nationality or colour; stop harassing drivers if they have a noticeable vulnerability – a ‘Baby on Board’ sign maybe or a busload of people. It’s a long road home and we all need each other!