Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Driving in South Africa

Driving in South Africa can become very frustrating. South African drivers simply do not care about the rules of the road. Red lights are skipped as if they were green, STOP signs are ignored, solid white lines are treated as broken white lines and yellow-lined shoulders on roads have become extra lanes. Further, speed limits have become speed minimums to many. Jumping STOP signs have become so frequent that a new idiom has arisen to explain how badly something or someone has been ignored: "Ignore him/it like a STOP sign!"

I am intending to make a series out of the issue of driving in South Africa. However, there will not be regular posts on the issue, but rather I will write as things happen and I am reminded of more South African driving quirks.

Today I would like to raise the issue of stealing while we drive!


I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. Many afternoons, when I leave work, a line of cars traveling from west to east, form to join the road that Picture Aforms a 'T' with our road. If you open picture 'A' on the right, you will find green lines going from the left of the picture and also from the bottom of the picture toward a roundabout (mini circle). These green lines represent the way that we are supposed to travel. You will also find red lines, the way we are not supposed to go.

At the end of the road, at the 'T', on the right hand side of the road there is a petrol station. People that are impatient, or who think that it is below their station in life to wait in line for their turn to make use of the roundabout, would slip past all the waiting cars on the left, and then ride where the red lines go, through the petrol station.

Sometimes, traveling on the green lines from south to north, approaching the roundabout in order to turn left, there could be a line forming as traffic piles up. Again, the same people I mentioned in the previous paragraph, would cross the grounds of the petrol station to the left to get on the road to the office.

Driving across the grounds of the petrol station highlight two issues for me.

1. Jumping the line
It makes me think of going to the supermarket and standing in a line waiting to pay. Next minute, someone from behind decides to pass everyone to get in line further up the line. He is pushing in! Why would it be any different when we are sitting in our cars?

People deliberately drive through the grounds of the petrol station in order to push in further up the line! These are people who care only about themselves and their comfort, and not about all those people who have already been waiting for their turn to move around the roundabout. Those people that push in like that, now make the line slower for the people that have been waiting already!

2. Stealing private property
Picture B"Huh?" I know, this has probably never occurred to you, but when you drive across someone else's property without paying for its use, you are stealing from that person, whether it is an individual, a company or even the government. Picture 'B' on the left has a similar scenario as described above.

In a case like these petrol stations, you have no right to drive across those properties without purchasing petrol or diesel or something from the convenience store connected to it.

When you purchase something from them, you help paying towards the maintenance of the place. However, when you drive across the property simply to get to the other side, then you are creating usage "damage" that you have not paid for. In essence, you are then trespassing on another's property. Of course, just because you bought petrol or a coke from them last time does not mean you can drive across their property now. Last time's purchase paid for last time's property usage!

So, next time you find yourself in this situation, perhaps you will think twice about jumping the line ro stealing from some property owner.

The question is, are your ethics based on your own personal convenience or something firmer?

Continue with Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

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