x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Please send out the right signals

Could it be that people around me do not realise what the protruding wick on the left side of the steering wheel is really for?

As Michael Jackson once sang: "If they say why, why ... Tell them that it's human nature -" Human nature can be very entertaining. Take, for example, what occurs when you place a "creative" homo sapien in a vehicle and send him or her out on the roads of the UAE. If you can extract yourself from the clear and present dangers of driving - ideally by being a passenger in someone else's vehicle - you can sit back and enjoy the show.

The audience can witness a regular and uniquely unpredictable ballet of swaying cars to and fro all along the motorway or street, randomly from left to right. Behold the intriguing five-lane swapping and far right U-turning with seemingly no real destination in mind. Thrill to the cacophonous horn opera accompanying the delightful event. You could toss a coin to predict where these people will steer their cars next - heads it's a left, tails it's a right. Where it lands - and where they go - goodness only knows. And this is where I begin to question myself. Could it be that people around me do not realise what the protruding wick on the left side of the steering wheel is really for? Or is it there for decoration and I am the fool for using my signal?

I remember my driving lessons. All 50 hours of them, the instructor continuously hammered home the importance of alerting other drivers around me of my intentions on the road. From turning to slowing down, from moving to the left or right lane, I was told to always warn others as to what I was up to. The signal is essential because mental telepathy is not a common human talent. In fact, telepathy is the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses.

I was once whacked over the head because I failed to keep my indicators on as I was parking, even though I was almost fully into my spot, and I'll never forget the lecture that followed. The speech nearly killed my driving buzz. In that very moment, the thought that I could kill or be killed suddenly became clear to me; that was quite a heavy responsibility being dropped on my head. Every day, no matter who is with me or in whose car I'm parading around in, I almost always end up delivering the heart attack inducing shout of "Signal!"

The shout goes out if you're going to cut me off while attempting to U-turn from the far right lane. Or, if you're going to take that space up ahead in the Spinneys car park. Or if you're going to suddenly stop at the bank's ATM to get some cash. Driving is fun - for me, it is more than going from point A to point B. I can jump into a car and drive until the petrol tank runs dry with no real destination, just for the pleasure of being behind the wheel.

But whenever I am on the road, my instructor's speech and the sting of that smack over the head comes back into my mind. No matter where I am driving, I make sure I do all I can to alert those around me as to what my intentions are. Here's a thought: if you cannot read other people's minds, the likelihood that they can read yours is ridiculously low. So please, I beg you, when you are out on the roads - Signal! psantos@thenational.ae