Saturday, April 18, 2009

Disordered Lights

I love my little country, and I love my compatriots, and I say this completely and totally out of love: we do not know how to respect laws. Whatever order we have managed over the years has stemmed purely from culturally defined and propagated manners, and what has become socially acceptable practice.

One such socially acceptable practice has been “it’s alright to break the law if you don’t get caught”. After the seat belt law/fine was introduced a few years back, taxi drivers, wanting to unburden me from dealing with the moody seatbelt in their front passenger seat, would reassure me that I could ignore it as there was no police around. Same goes for speaking on the cell phone while driving, going the wrong way down side streets that had their directions (illogically) reversed overnight (both of which I will confess to having done myself), and more recently, driving through a red light.

There is something about a red light that absolutely deters me from crossing it. Perhaps it’s my engineer nerdiness respecting the technology that is making it run, or perhaps it’s, quite simply, the psychology behind that glaring red light staring down at me. Whatever it is, I have great difficulty crossing a red light, where many of my compatriots don’t. And for all the mish-mashed history of non-governance, the faulty logic of street planning and other such backdrops to our Lebanese driving stories, I forgive them all for these actions (whizzing past me as I remain steadily stationary), whether I condone it or not.

What absolutely incenses me, however, is when we are, through whatever magical spell, all respecting the order of the traffic lights, only to have a sprightly police officer encourage us to ignore it and drive through. It literally drives me nuts. Whereas I could and have ignored my honking fellow drivers as they try to loosen my stubborn brake at the red light, this little police officer demands my attention and forces me to move. My flush of silent rage as I reluctantly obey this mis-order is accompanied by an almost hopeless sadness. How will anything ever change when this master of his domain, this product of our culture, thinks it’s alright to break the law if he doesn’t get caught?

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