By Jan De Burgh
Yesterday I needed to buy chicken for dinner.
I checked the freezer – no luck there. I looked out my window at our healthy chicken ‘Phil’ waddling around the driveway – too much work I thought. Out of options I then crossed my fingers so hard that there would be some in town. Just the thought of having to drive across the bridge to my regular butchers in the middle of the day was enough to raise my heart rate.
Being stuck in traffic is a way of life in Honiara. Sometimes it’s backed up right from the bridge over the Mataniko River, to the Iron Bottom Sound Hotel. It affects the way I operate, the exercise I do, the events I attend and the shops that I visit. The only benefits I’ve seen so far is the ability to use the ‘How bad is the traffic?’ conversation starter when creating small talk, and being able to blame it for my lateness when it’s really Facebook overuse that has caused my delay.
While I’m patient in traffic and I have no mental fight with it, what gets to me is the boredom. My radio is inaudible and I have no pikininis (kids) in the back to yell at, so entertainment options are low. This is a common feeling of my fellow drivers, so it’s been fun to swap ideas about how to use the time productively.
A very studious friend of mine has been doing his university study in the car. He will prop the book on the steering wheel, read a few pages, then move the car and inch or two, and get in a few pages more. The bumper-to-bumper traffic really does allow him the time to get involved in a topic.
A cheeky fellow I know entertains himself by pulling funny faces at pikinini’s who are equally as bored in the cars and buses beside him. He enjoys their over flowing laughter at his silliness, which they just can’t seem to get enough of.
One friend has been watching TV on her phone. Perhaps one of the most frustrating mobile phones of all time (no predicative text option!), the Blu Jenny is worth buying just for its multimedia capabilities. With its giant retractable aerial, the Blu Jenny picks up a number of stations including BBC World News and Aljazeera. She props up the phone in the center console and listens to the stations like a book tape.
After raising traffic habits at an afternoon tea recently, a pal revealed that she hooks her iPod up to the tape player and transforms into a vivacious head banger. This was quite unexpected from my usually quiet and conservative friend. I wonder if she realises that her windows are not tinted?
Some people I know use traffic time to make phone calls or send text messages. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to do this. While I’m not judging those who decide it’s okay, I know that I personally do not have the coordination it takes to dial a number, contribute to the conversation and navigate a roundabout. Navigating a roundabout takes everything I’ve got.
What I’ve learnt from chatting to people is that the traffic needs to be viewed positively. Yes, you can approach it as a time suck and dream of all the things you could otherwise be doing, or you can view it as a chance to study, listen to the news, interact with strangers, or dance. With the right attitude, it can be a forced retreat from our often over-scheduled schedules, where a little bit of creativity can flow.