Easing Your Traffic Pains
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
There must be a zillion articles and letters written by outraged citizens on traffic jams in Dhaka city. After all, there is a whole lot to complain about. The increasing number of cars on the roads, the total lack of traffic control, rules and regulations, the narrowness and deteriorating condition of the roads (which also prove to be death traps at times), to mention a few.
In a desperate attempt to solve some of these problems, the government had managed to come up with some bizarre regulations, which only added to our woes. Like the time they decided private cars could not be driven on the streets unless they carried at least four passengers. At times like these it seems like a good thing that we don't have too many law-abiding citizens, or people would start having children just to avoid using public transportation. Imagine what that would do to our already booming population.
Anyway, the point is, it doesn't seem like this problem of ours will be solved in the foreseeable future, so why not starting thinking about how to live with it? Most people have already figured out ways to weave their way around traffic to get on with their everyday lives, but how many can deal with the increasing anxiety and stress which accompanies waiting in stand-still traffic? My guess is, not too many.
Spending more than half your day in traffic, in the scorching heat is definitely not a life choice you make. On top of that, if the air conditioner in your car stops working, or if you're on a bus and you're squashed next to a sweaty person with hygiene issues, or if you're breathing in the black fumes from the vehicle in front of you while you wait in your CNG or rickshaw, you are entitled to some frustration. No one will judge you if you decide to step out to stretch your legs, scream obscenities at your fellow sufferers or throw a punch or two just to vent. But is that productive? More importantly, does it make you feel better?
If it does, you can stop reading right now. If not, there are ways to stop things from getting out of control. The first thing you do, when you start to get upset is, tell yourself there's no point because there is absolutely nothing you can do to change the way things are. Getting angry won't get the traffic to move. Once you've done that, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This slows your heart rate a little and eases the stress. Now, think of ways to distract yourself from your surroundings.
Whatever you do, don't look out your window. Listen to your mp3 player if you have one or the radio, avoid talk shows, and listen to stations that play upbeat music you cheer you up. If you've already reached your boiling point, listen to soothing music to calm your nerves. Bring a good book, comic or newspaper with you when you're on the road, these are always good distractions. Carry a perfumed handkerchief or air freshener with you at all times if you use public transportation.
If you have a private car, your time killing options are limitless. If you're working, take a shower in the morning and put your clothes on and hop into the car. Eat your breakfast and finish getting ready on your way to work. If you have assignments to finish, get some of it out of the way while you wait in traffic, so you won't have to worry about it at work. Any meetings that can be conducted over the phone can be done during this time too.
If you are a student, get your homework done while you're travelling to and from school. This gives you time to relax and play once you reach home. Ladies can finish putting their make-up on while stuck at traffic signals when they have evening plans. You can also make all your important appointments (doctors, beauticians, vets etc) and your shopping lists too. If you feel productive, your stress will automatically decrease and make your wait easier.
The aches and pains caused by sitting in one place for hours also adds to your anxiety, so why not come up with a few exercises to help ease your pain? Try to move your arms and legs once every fifteen minutes or so to keep away the pins and needles and muscle cramps.
While you wait in traffic, you should also avoid stressful phone calls (with your in-laws for example) thoughts and interactions with your fellow passengers. Think of something to look forward to or something relaxing and try and if you have nothing else to do, take a nap. Power naps are always good for your health.
Avoid backseat driving as much as possible and let your chauffer (moronic as he may be) do the dirty work for you. Don't get upset if he violate traffic rules, you know everyone does it. There is no considerate way to drive on the streets of Dhaka. It's a dog eat dog world out here.
If you want to be innovative, you can even start your own business, selling food or other products which you can carry around in the boot of your vehicle and whip out when you encounter a jam. Nothing kills stress better than financial compensation, so why not try to make your wait profitable?
So go out there and try everything I've suggested. Put your waiting hours to good use. If you're lucky, the distractions might just work. What have you got to lose right? Remember acceptance is the key to a stress free life. If anyone has any good suggestions to add, feel free to write about it and help your fellow citizens. Who knows– you may be putting a stopper to road rage, accidents, mob violence and a host of unknown pathologies brewing in the sea of traffic.