Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

The S-curve

The route on the way from home to my office includes a so called S-curve. This means that the road first curves into one direction, followed immediately by a curve into the opposite direction, indeed much like the shape of the letter ‘S’. This particular stretch of the road is four lanes wide and has two pedestrian crossings, one at the beginning and one at the end. The road is rather new and being four lanes wide it invites drivers to step on the gas. I usually approach this part of my routine morning drive with some apprehension as there are many dangers luring. In fact I do something, which under other driving circumstances would be regarded a wrong thing to do. At the beginning of the S-curve, which turns to the left first, I steer my vehicle into the most left lane and I stay there until I have left the S-curve well behind me. Why? Out of pure self defence, I must admit.
The first danger is the pedestrian crossing at the beginning of the stretch. As children on their way to school and adults on their way to work carefully try and assess their chances to make it across the road, many drivers ignore them and even overtake other vehicles who have stopped to allow the pedestrians to cross; a very dangerous situation indeed and not an exception. It happens every day. I once waited for children crossing when a driver stopped next to me and told me I have to make the children stop for the cars to move on. Anyway, as I continue on the outer left lane and stay there, other drivers will have crossed all four lanes twice before exiting the S-curve. The reason why I stay on the left lane is to prevent them for cutting in on me, which otherwise will happen, for sure.
Now the second pedestrian crossing is approaching being the last hurdle of the S-curve and the first for the next 3 kms. Meanwhile, drivers honk to warn others that they are about to overtake them or when approaching a junction, meaning: “Me first, then you”. It is an interesting habit of drivers here to use their horn for this purpose. It is a sign that they do not trust others to see them or give way to them. I discussed this once with a driving instructor, who said: “Do not assume that others know the rules, so use the horn”. An interesting kind of proactive behaviour, I thought. It is completely the opposite where I come from and where drivers assume that all other drivers also know the rules and that they too, have been equally grilled to follow them. So what is actually happening on the 300 metres or so S-curve stretch of the road that I pass every morning and afternoon? What I observe are two things. Many drivers are inconsiderate and do not care much about the other road users, be it drivers or pedestrians. In fact, their behaviour is rather arrogant. Secondly, many drivers are either ignorant of the rules or choose to ignore the rules, thereby seriously endangering traffic. They ignore pedestrians on the zebra crossing, they cut in while overtaking other vehicles, they cross lanes without indicating that they intend to do so or even looking whether it is safe to do so, they over-speed and they honk their way through traffic. Meanwhile some think they are being smart. Why is this so? And why does this happen on such a large scale? It has been said that the combination of ignorance and arrogance is hard to beat but let us have a closer look.
People who are inconsiderate of others try to make sure they are the ones benefitting from a given situation, often at the expense of others. They have a so called ‘scarcity mentality’. People with this mentality think that there is only so much out there and if someone else were to get a big piece out of the pie, there is less remaining for the rest. These people have a difficult time sharing recognition, credit, power or profit, even with those who help making it. We often see this mentality in Ethiopia as well. People have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people, even and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It is as if something is taken away from them when someone else receives special recognition or is becoming successful. Although they might verbally express happiness for the success of others, deep inside they are jealous and unhappy. They compare themselves with that other person, who they feel is winning and thus they are losing. Such people covet what others have and look forward to the time things will go less well for the other. They are always comparing and competing and spend their energy and resources on possessing things or other people to increase their sense of worth. They surround themselves with people who will not challenge them and who are weaker. They gain, others lose. Familiar?
Next comes the issue of ignorance. Either people do not know the rules or they choose to ignore the rules. The point is that nobody really seems to care. Where there are rules and regulations to follow, they would help but it seems very difficult for many to follow rules at all. In fact they like to think that it is good that there are rules but they don’t apply to them as their particular situation is different than that of others. They can therefore ignore or bend the rules to fit their interest. And not knowing the rules makes it all even worse. Remember that habits are formed by a combination of knowledge, skills and motivation. If any of these are missing, don’t expect much in terms of results. Somebody told me that getting a driving license is much easier in the country side; so many aspirant drivers follow this path and take the short cut. This does not however help in anyway to develop the knowledge and skills needed to be a safe driver. 
Now, what has all this to do with doing business? Next week we will try and see what we can learn from these observations and how we can translate this in doing our business.