Saturday, May 07, 2005

Leaving, but Still Learning

We are in the last rush to get ready for the container truck that comes late Sunday evening. (Why would a shipping truck come late Sunday you ask... because big trucks aren't allowed in Islamabad so it will be sneaked in under cover of darkness. It feelins like we are smuggling ourselves out of the country. Weird huh, but that's Pakistan for you.)

The family all takes turns driving our little rental car around town running
errands: to the fabric shop, to the tailor, to the dentist, to the photoshop...
to.. to.. to...

I've closed out my bank account, ended my classes and exchanged certificates of
achievement for letters of reference from my students. It's rush-pack, rush-pack, rush-pack.

While on one of my numberless errands this week I was waiting to make a cross
traffic turn onto a busy street. True to Pakistani tradition another driver
pulled alongside my car partially blocking my view and turned perilously close and alongside my car as I turned. The family calls this manuever double turning. "Watchout! You've got a double turner in your armpit!" is the standard warning we call out to whomever is driving at the time. It shocked and angered us when we first began driving in Pk. "How rude! we thought. "How dangerous!" "Don't these people have any respect for common traffic laws?"

My lack of concern (other than being miffed that my view of oncoming traffic was blocked) caused me to reflect on years back and my mind wandered back to our early days here. We were all scared, angry and confused by the reckless driving and lawlessness. I remebered how we went through the stages of shock and fear, then anger acceptance and finally driving pretty fast and rough ourselves.

After living here several years, double turning and other such nasty tricks
don't even phase me anymore although I never understood why people did them.
But this week as the other driver and I flawless manuvered the double turn, I
finally understood the mindset behind such traffic tactics.

It's herd mentality; that survival instinct that causes wild animals to group up. "Life in the jungle is dangerous. Some of us will be eaten by preditors, but because there are many of us, most of us will live to reproduce." It works for wildabeasts, zebras, buffaloes and apparently Pakistani drivers since there are millions of Pakistanis reproducing. The Pakistani driver must think, "This is a dangerous intersection. There are many crashes here. If I turn alongside another car, perhaps the other car will be smashed and my car will be spared."

It delighted me that I had finally figured a rational cause for what I had considered irrational behavour.

A sad smile crossed my lips as I realized I was soon to leave this land and I
still had so much to learn.