The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express on November 7, 2010.
Crash Course In Psychology On The Road
We have all been in minor road accidents sometime or the other. The smallest of bumps, brushes or scratches is all it takes to unleash some of the most intriguing traffic personalities on us. At the top end of the spectrum are the overtly physical types who start beating the occupants of the other car even before their car stops. They wait for no law, preferring to settle the issue themselves, arriving at ballpark damages that would force the owner of the other vehicle to sell off all his properties to settle. Until then, they impound his wallet.
Then there are the psychological types who maintain respectful distances but talk incessantly about damages. They whine endlessly, hinting at how much they ought to be paid. The other guy starts losing his senses with all this and pays up excessive amounts just to get away with his sanity intact.
Then there are the dramatic types who love nothing more than a good drama. They leave their vehicles lying like corpses on the road, not touching them until the entire neighbourhood assembles. Then, with heavy dialogues and loud emotions, they perform exclusively for their audience. The other vehicle owner slips off meanwhile, realising he has no further role. Normally, the hapless crowd pools up a fund to pay these dramatists and save themselves from further histrionics.
Then there are the self-righteous types. All they want is for the whole world to certify that they were right — even if they were wrong. Their intent is not to recover money, only a clear conscience. They catch every guy on the road and convince him about how right they were. If the public and the other vehicle owner are smart, they agree immediately, and everyone gets away easily and quickly. Else they will be subjected to long discourses on right and wrong and what awaits them in the afterworld.
Then there are the important types who have nothing to do. They whip out cell phones from their pockets and call everyone from President Obama to their pet animals to tell them of what happened. “I will not let this go easily,” they tell everyone. “I know how to handle these fellows.” Then they wait for the police, who, with their zero interest levels, make it amply clear that they have better things to do. Then everyone goes to the police station for more waiting and phone practice. Finally both parties go home in autorickshaws since the cops have detained both vehicles as evidence and are seeking witnesses, which could take a few more years.
Then there are the frozen types who refuse to let go of the steering, whatever happens. The whole world pleads with them to step out and sort the issue, but they latch on to their steering like a leech. Since one needs heavy equipment to prise them off the steering, which could be more expensive than the actual damages, the others go away, disgusted. At which the frozen one unfreezes and leaves.
And then there are normal types, who have no clue what to do. Even if they are not at fault they jump out of their vehicle, apologise, give away all the money in their pocket, and pledge away their current and future wealth as well. Only later do they realise that it was the other person’s fault.
Different reactions, different people. One can’t blame them though, since no one seems to know what to do when these things happen. I think a crash course would help — for all concerned. Cops included, of course!