OPINION: Traffic – as Guyanese know it, follow it, live it

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2022, 8:18 by Writer

by GHK Lall

A cautionary note is in order as I share on traffic today. All laws and rules are dumped into the garbage can. Well, that is precisely what most Guyanese have done with them. Frequently, I am ready to say all Guyanese, so prevalent, so every day, are the departures from the rules, dismissals of them, and making up of new ones by citizens to suit themselves on congested roadways. The violators include officials who know better, and citizens who carry on as they please.

Roads are wet, streets are crowded, but most road users jockey to get in front of others, as all try to carve out their own prime moving road real estate space. There are no off-peak hours anymore, all day is rush hour, starting from as early as 5 a.m. in some locales, and tapering off at after 8 p.m. in others. Side streets are no longer a wise exit strategy since they are all clogged, no maneuvering room. Something is worth reporting: rather than take foot off the gas, Guyanese prefer to place hand on horn. This is the type of road dictatorship that runs riot nowadays. I think it is an indication of our shrinking brain capacity. Put the finger at whatever pleases, such as politics potholed and perverse; leaders, the worst examples anywhere; and, of course, oil, that ambrosia of asses, idiots, dumbos, smartasses, the hurry-up-to-get-rich crowd, and those endless assortments of Guyanese indescribable that go by the name of road users.

If the way that we use our roads was the barometer employed to measure our civilization, it would be prehistoric. If for our culture, it would be that Guyana has none, but that of beasts. And if for our sense of traveling tranquility, then the result would be Bethlehem. Lest anyone gets carried away with biblical images of mangers, and goodwill, because it is almost December, I urge rethinking. Bethlehem was the official name of a madhouse in merry England, and from which bedlam became the local disfigurement. Bedlam (not Bethlehem) perfectly describes the cacophony, crimes, and caustic language that are part of the daily fare in oil-greased and oil-gushing Guyana. Imagine if we had found uranium! We would be so full of ourselves that we would likely have blown ourselves up from the nuclear fallouts.

The majority of drivers, a bundle of pedestrians, and the usual crew of jaywalkers, sleepwalkers, and street walkers, plus those victimized by Johnnie Walker (some sleazy stepson of his), all decided to take the law into their hands and make it their toy. This has nothing to do with Christmas, but is a year-round pastime. Errant drivers ignore laws, rules, regulations (cops also), curse the clumsy and slow to react (red lights changing, major roads), park anywhere (especially prohibited areas), and have fun doing all these self-serving traffic things, plus the endless list of lawlessness, disorderliness, and dreadfulness I left out, due to respect for children, dogs, and the handful of honest hearts still toiling here.

In this matter of honesty, there are five sections presented to emphasize road realities in Guyana, and how officials and peasants (citizens) all engage in their little traffic tricks. First, observe who are the readymade lawbreakers. I’ll give a small hint: start with the highly regarded Guyana Police Force. Note how almost all (maybe all) policemen and women have tinted vehicles. Bajan songstress, Wendy Alleyne crooned one in the 1970s titled “Midnight Blue”, which should give a fairly good idea of how their vehicles are visually impenetrable from the outside. I understand that all members of the presidential guards are similarly attired in their private mechanical chariots. If our officers of the law (and traffic) are so schooled, cultured, and condoned, then there is not much to be expected from ordinary citizens.

Second, we are already confirmed as horn happy; now we have progressed to siren serenaders, or as I prefer siren silly, if not stupid. Officials turn on sirens for anything and everything, including getting out of snarled traffic situations. Get a load of this one. A fire service vehicle charged through tight traffic (bottlenecked and crawling) only for the occupant of a vehicle that found enough inches to give way to come across the fire service staff leisurely disembarking by the Cornhill Street station with a stretch and a yawn. And a bit of a chuckle. There was no emergency call, no place of urgency to go to and attend. Sirens are one big, overused hummingbird symphony and racket. Third, what’s up with these private security police proxies (no politics today) and their swaggering presence, while taking up space dislodging real law enforcement hands. Their siren use is a problem, but a bigger one is how do law abiding civilians differentiate who is police, and who is ‘teef’ in a crunch? I just remembered a fourth traffic scenario, which does not reflect sweetly on the honest officers of the law. It goes like this.

The driver is pulled over in front of the burned down precinct by a uniformed roadside rank for no seatbelt. For this ticket eligible violation, he is sent into the Brickdam Station. After the usual hemming and hawing, the driver is dismissed, and threats about court disappear. The price was $2,000 Guyanese, not US dollars. I hope that the CoP (ag), the Hon. Minister, and the PS, are all reading this, or being informed accordingly. This was not in some remote border community, but at Central Brickdam. This is the kind of traffic game being played, with rules manufactured, and court assembled. Fifth, it is a good development to have ranks on the roads, but they must not be on their cellphones, unless calling base command. Is it any wonder that Guyanese carry on like Attila the Hun, Alaric the Visigoth, and Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde? That is, in the daily warfare that is traffic conditions and practices in Guyana.