Watch dem lights
By Sharief Khan
May 20, 2007
A FRIEND of mine swore he, long ago, saw a white man, dressed all in white, hopping along a pedestrian crossing, saying, as he stepped on the black stripes “Now you see me”, and then “now you don’t” as he moved to the white stripes.
“Now you see me, now you don’t”, he kept saying and hopping back and forth on the pedestrian crossing, my friend claimed.
If the story is true, it must have been the first time on a pedestrian crossing for that poor man and he was probably so excited at it all, that he had to spend time savouring the joy in the new discovery.
And so he went back and forth.
I don’t expect to see much of that kind of antics in and around Georgetown with the new traffic lights going up.
But I couldn’t believe it when the new traffic lights were switched on for the first time near the Botanical Gardens and a crowd quickly gathered to stand and gaze at the wonder of it all.
And for a long time that night, people just rode up, drove up or walked by to stop and watch at the traffic lights changing and controlling traffic.
I suppose I should not have been too surprised because working traffic lights may be an absolute wonder for some people in this country to behold.
But it would take some time for some people to get accustomed to it all, though.
And wait for it – the protests are bound to come.
Among the things some journalists I met who came here for the Cricket World Cup matches marvelled about Georgetown, was that there were no working traffic lights. They couldn’t imagine traffic in a modern city flowing without functioning traffic lights.
No wonder, some said, that the taxi and mini-bus drivers are about the scariest they had ever come across in travels around the world. They drive without rules and are a law unto to themselves, nurtured to driving without traffic lights to control them.
Almost everyone in their right senses would agree that getting an efficient and functioning system of traffic lights up and running, especially in and around Georgetown, was an absolute necessity to bring some order to the madness that has for too long reigned on the streets of the capital city.
Order had to be brought again.
And I was among those breathing deep sighs of relief when the lights began going on again and fervently looking forward to the order and efficiency that should prevail when all are working smoothly.
But lo and behold, and as sure as night follows day, there came the mumbling and grumbling.
I just couldn’t believe when I heard people complaining about the delays the working traffic lights are creating.
“You should see the long line the lights cause”, a woman complained to a colleague yesterday.
It was clear that she felt it was all one big humbug and that those responsible for setting up the system didn’t know what they are about.
And she won’t be singular.
Setting up an efficient system of traffic lights isn’t mumbo jumbo, and calls for precision timing and getting everything functioning like clockwork. The timing has to be just right so that traffic can flow without causing the chaos and madness that have so long characterised driving in Georgetown and in its environs.
But old habits die hard and change is resisted by some and the new order coming with the traffic lights will be resisted.
Change doesn’t come easily and it will take some persuasion and education and sternness for it all to be firmly driven home to those who may want to resist.
It’s a pity that something as mundane and taken for granted as functioning traffic lights in modern cities has to be the subject of even discussion here.
But that’s the way it is – there’s still some way to go before some people in this country come to terms with abiding and playing by the rules.
I don’t expect to see the `Now you see me, now you don’t’ dancing my friend swore he saw that white man doing o the pedestrian crossing.
But watch out for some other funny antics over these new traffic lights, because here there are some people just waiting for an excuse to put them in the limelight.
And the new traffic lights may be just the light they need.
You think it easy?