Beat the traffic light!

Traffic in Mangalore is increasing day by day. An average Mangalorean spends roughly about one to two hours stuck in traffic every day. Unbelievable? OK, I admit I just made it up! Statistics apart, it cannot be denied that an average Mangalorean does spend an inordinately long time being caught in maddening logjams and exasperating traffic lights that turn red just as your vehicle approaches.

Likewise it cannot be denied that you’ve already been advised to stop cribbing, and informed about the umpteen number of things that you can do while stuck at a red light. Namely, you can read the newspaper, you can roll up your windows and practice pranayama, you can sing out loud and such. However, a healthy number of Mangaloreans use a bike rather than a car for transport. So what does one do when stuck in traffic astride a two-wheeler?

Whenever I visit my hometown Mangalore, I always take rides in my friends? vehicles. Although many a times my friends have offered me to take their cars for my commute during my stay, I never accepted their offer. Knowing that driving is not that easy in Mangalore like it is here in United States. I didn’t want to borrow their cars and return them back with broken side mirrors or dents and scratches all over!! So I always took an easy ride on the passenger side of my friend’s vehicle.

Here are a few handy options that I came up with whenever you get stuck at a traffic red light:

YOU CAN READ SMALL SIZE BOOKS OR NOVELS : Agreed that managing a newspaper on a bike would be rather tricky, but who says newspapers are the only things you can read while on the road? Bikers do not have the luxury of catching up on the morning news on the way to office as those with a car, chauffeur- driven or otherwise, have. They can, however, carry other readable material to keep busy. Light paperbacks are a convenient option, as they are small and easy to hold. But be careful what you are reading — a book that’s too interesting won’t do because you’d get so absorbed you may miss the brief moment when the light turns green and be stationed at the same spot for the next few minutes. A book that’s boring is even worse as you might fall asleep at the wheel, oops, handlebars. You need a Goldilocks book — neither too this nor too that, but just right.

YOU CAN READ THE BILLBOARDS: The huge billboards that are strategically placed around a traffic light are kept there so that people notice and read them. It’s even possible that the advertising community has lobbied (secretly) with the traffic police to keep the red lights on for longer periods of time that anywhere else in the world, just so they can ensure their message about certain brands is right in your face, and for so long that you cannot forget it in a hurry.  Do yourself a favor. Make it your mission to find funny links, and exercise the right side of your brain by thinking how you could have made the ad better.

YOU CAN GRAB A BITE: Back-to-back meetings spoiling your food regime? Worry not, you can always grab a quick sandwich on the way. There’s no fine yet for eating while driving, unlike there is for talking on your cellphone while on the road. Indian rice dishes may not fit with this plan, but chappatis or parathas can be turned into convenient rolls or even pizza slice that you can munch on your way to the meeting with your client. A word of caution though. With all the construction activity happening in the city, you might ingest a few grains of sand or a dollop of concrete now and then.

YOU CAN PLAN YOUR WEEK : If you are an average working professional whose job demands that you spend more times outside the office than inside, chances are that there will be more than just a couple of places you need to visit in a day. Carry a small planner, jot down the week’s potential meetings and plan your calls in such a way that you minimize the distance (and save time!) you have cover in a day. You can do the preparation for meetings at a red light rather than wasting time doing this at the office. Your boss always asking for minutes of the meeting? Do it at the red light!

YOU CAN STRIKE UP A CONVERSATION: Remember Bollywood’s hit movie ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai?’ Where the hero meets his lady love at a traffic signal. Not that I am suggesting you nurture similar hopes, but no harm in saying a friendly howdy to your fellow sufferer on the road, right? And of course you’ve heard about business deals being struck at the golf course or cricket field, job offers being made on plane rides — so why not such career enhancing possibilities at the red signal ? In a world where social networking websites are introducing strangers to each other, why not have your own social networking club called, say, Red Light Bikers’ Network? Or Mangalore Cars’ Jam?

Next time the traffic light turns red just as you reach it, don’t fret! There’s always plenty to do.

Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois