First, let me clearly state that I know some really great bus and taxi drivers (legal, illegal, private passenger vehicles and route taxis). The buses on my regular rural route are notorious for having close calls with other vehicles as a result of speeding on the meandering pot-holed filled country road. However, for quite some time especially since I have started to traverse two specific routes in Kingston I have had my fair share of near-miss/close calls, surprises, verbal attacks and intimidation tactics dished out by our local taxi drivers.
On my way home this evening, while reflecting on my run–ins, I thought; “I wonder if to be a certified taxi-driver in Jamaica a requirement is indiscipline”. After all, it doesn’t matter if one breaks the road code, lose one’s life as well as those of your passengers, getting numerous tickets or even losing one’s vehicle. As long as the “ shotta driver” “attempts” to get to the terminus in the shortest possible time, it is quite okay to be reckless, or quite frankly indisciplined or undisciplined as some persons might say.
According to (dictionary.cambridge.org), indiscipline (unruliness, disruptiveness, disorderly, rowdiness) is defined as a situation in which people do not control their behavior or obey rules. Self-control on the other hand, is quite the opposite of indiscipline as it is the ability to restrain exercise over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires (Merriam Webster Dictionary) or to not show your feelings or do the things that your feelings make you want to do (collinsdictionary.com). Based on the definition of the two terms I have concluded that driving in Jamaica is quite challenging as the indisciplined driver who may end up offending other motorists because of his “driving skills” may actually provoke other motorists to the point where they may lose their self control and become just as offensive as the provocateur due to road rage.
As I reflect on my recent run-ins I thought: based on my experiences as well as the many stories in the newspapers about speeding and indiscipline being the main factors contributing to road crashes in Jamaica, I wondered if the lack of self-control is the real factor behind the actions of our notorious Jamaican Drivers or if it’s a lack of morals, values and ethics or plain selfishness that influence the behavior.
I say this because, self-control is supposed to prevent you from doing the things your feelings make you want to do. I then thought, why should I or another driver exercise self-control? After all as a driver, my intent is to get to my destination in the shortest possible time. If that is my objective, should I really care about how my actions on the road affect others? After all, they aren’t considering how their actions might impact me!
Twice this week I have had to restrain myself from getting angry or doing something impulsive because of taxi drivers. This morning I got so irate while waiting in traffic when a taxi driver decided to quickly poke the front of his car between my car and the vehicle before me while my car was in motion. It was bumper to bumper traffic. Several drivers (mostly taxis), decided that they were going to make “their own “left lane” by driving in the right lane while we waited in the left lane in traffic.
As the vehicles in the correct lane approached the intersection where there is a stop sign, the taxi drivers exited the side road that we were on, by making a sharp right turn, forcing the oncoming car to stop, while the cars on the left that were following the rules of the road (in the correct lane) attempted to exit the avenue simultaneously (as the vehicles on the main were also forced to stop to facilitate their safe passage).
As I waited my turn to exit, (about three (3) cars were before me at the time) I noticed a grey cab with black and yellow checkered design in the self-made right lane inching toward the left lane that I was in. So I continued on my merry way watching to see what this taxi driver was about to do (I am now assuming that I was supposed to know at that point, that even without an indicator or hand signal that unlike his predecessors who made it on to the main road from the long line of cars in that right lane, through some sort of telepathic powers, I should know that he was going to automatically fall in line right before my vehicle).
The car was loaded with passengers who apparently do not mind being driven by a “shotta driver” as not even a sound was emitted from the passengers when their driver made a sharp left turn towards the front of my car (in an attempt to force me to give him right of passage). It didn’t matter that I would have to stop suddenly putting me at risk of the driver behind me hitting my car in the rear, or that a passenger could have been hurt, or that an accident could affect our insurance policy rates.
All that mattered was that he got to do what he wanted, when he wanted, with whom he wanted, because he can and is free to do what he wants. Hence, the taxi driver poked his vehicle front between the SMALL SPACE separating me from the vehicle ahead in a diagonal manner. This meant that I would be forced to either stop suddenly, or hit the front passenger door or left side (near the tire area) of his taxi. Can you guess what action I chose? Yes, I hit the brakes as it certainly wasn’t worth putting myself through additional stress and costs because of a Jackass!
There, I said it. I had a hard time trying to find a suitable noun for the individual and since I didn’t know his name the most suitable word that came to mind was the abovementioned. (If you think of a more suitable word feel free to suggest it in the comments section of this page).
After bringing the vehicle to a halt, I decided that I was going to take a photograph of the offender with his vehicle in the precarious diagonal position and show the world the perfect example of “true driving skills” the actions of a real “shotta driver”, a regular occurrence on our local roads. I therefore reached into my bag, got my cellphone and while I quickly swiped away trying to select the camera in time to catch the culprit in action, my phone decided to not cooperate. I just could not believe it! The camera button decided not to click, to take that very important photo to be used as evidence just in case I needed it or even better, to show the society the kind of “reprobates” that decent people have to contend with when you traverse in Jamaica.
After a few minutes a thought came to mind. Maybe not getting that photograph was the best thing that could have happened. I thought, if I had gotten the pic there would have been a good probability that I would be tempted to publish a photograph that could quite possibly land me in trouble. After all, not only are Jamaican drivers notorious for their “driving skills”, they are also notorious for being hustlers, gangsters, bullies and publishing a photo of a vehicle that could probably be identified could possibly cost me my life (not to mention unknown legal issues).
Yesterday’s incident was even worse, as whilst the driver succeeded at bullying his way for me to give him pass, I was more concerned about the passengers who were being driven by someone who looked like a teenager who was driving the apparent” robot taxi” with the side door open, driving at top speed with horns blazing, forcing “puss, dog, the able, lame and other motorists” to scamper for safety.
It was after reflecting that the words SELF-CONTROL came to mind. We all have issues that we must face in life however, it takes a concerted effort to exercise self-control. I thought, I could have easily rolled down my windows and given the offensive drivers “a piece of my mind”. I could have insisted on my right away and be involved in an accident that could take over a year to settle with our local insurance companies. I could be just as unruly and offensive but I made a choice to do and think of the following:
- Consider the impact my actions could have on others
- Think about my safety and the safety of other road users
- Possible consequences of my actions if I lost control
- How my actions would be interpreted
- Would God be pleased
- Would the temporary satisfaction that revenge offers be worth the risk
- The fact that my life is more important than material possessions
- That many Jamaican drivers as well as most persons have selfish desires, urging them to consider only their needs and wants and that they really DO NOT CARE about the opinion and feelings of others.
- Many persons in the service industry are uncaring and discourteous; neither do they consider their customer’s opinions or safety as being an important factor to their livelihood.
- Some persons are willing to risk possible consequences including (fines, jail time or losing their assets)I was not one such person.
I then thought, due to our selfish human nature, all humans at some point have struggled with an issue of self-control. This may impact their communication, relationships, spending habits, sexual habits, eating habits, the need to control others, as well as need to gossip.
This brought me to the realization that we all have our shortfalls, and whilst Jamaicans especially Jamaican Taxi /drivers who are notorious for their driving capabilities may find it difficult to be able to exercise self -control , this is not just an issue for local public passenger drivers. It is an issue for everyone.
Why is this an issue? Persons are quite unaware of their weak areas especially those that are habit related including the problem of self-control. Also, someone cannot address an unknown problem, and if the issue is pointed out the person must realise or sees the need for change, seek help, then work assiduously to avoid repeating the mistake.
The biggest problem of all is that HUMANS ARE NOTORIOUS for being repeat offenders of negative actions once an action becomes a habit. After all, according to http://www.dictionary .com, habits are formed when an action is repeated quite often sometimes unknowingly which makes me summise that some actions are hard to correct. We may also find it difficult to exercise self-control over certain actions because we may have unknowingly committed the offence.
If we realise that there is a fault within us that we need to address and we have tried to change our behavior but find it quite difficult, might I suggest that you continuously/earnestly pray about the situation. If you think it’s necessary to speak to a pastor about it you can have someone offer an intercessory prayer on your behalf. You can also forgive yourself for committing the action instead of condemning yourself and use the next day as a new day to start over.
The power to be able to restrain yourself during a difficult time, due to a habit or unawareness of negative traits, attitude or problems. We ALL lose it from time to time however, it is a necessary gift to succeed in the race of life.
Oh Lord I confess that I am a creature of habit but I am grateful that you have empowered me to overcome all things through you who is our strength. Thank you for constantly forgiving us when we have done wrong. Your grace, mercy and love is everlasting. We thank you for your Holy Spirit who helps us to control our thoughts and actions because you have not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and self-discipline.
Related Inspirational Readings
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Corinthians 10:13
2 Peter 1:3-11
Galations 5: 22-23
 A Shotta Driver- is a driver who can drive very quickly, taking every possible shortcut and using whatever means necessary to take a passenger to his destination. This includes careless and reckless driving.
 Morals are – the rules that govern which actions are right and which are wrong. A morals can be for all of society or an individual’s beliefs
 Values are – principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life
 Ethics – moral principles that governs a persons behaviour or conducting of an activity
 A robot taxi is an illegal or unregistered public passenger vehicle or taxi
Photos courtesy: The Jamaica Observer & http://www.google.com