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NOT EXTINCT YET: The bad apples have been getting their way for far too long
WHATEVER happened to the nice and friendly Malaysian that tourists raved about? Is that a misnomer or a misleading observation pointing to the fact that the nice and friendly Malaysian never actually existed or that very few Malaysians are really nice and friendly?
A local newspaper early this week highlighted 10 bad habits of Malaysians -- rudeness (driving) on the road, disregarding warning signboards, snatching parking spaces in public parking areas, not giving up seats for pregnant women and elderly people in buses or trains, rushing into trains and buses without allowing passengers to come out first, talking loudly on cellphones in public spaces like cinemas, not holding doors or elevator doors for people after them, not saying "thank you", inconsiderate practices like leaving shopping trolleys in the parking lot and tardiness.
I gather that the list is not based on any scientific survey but based on every day experiences.
I'd like to say that the nice and friendly Malaysian still exists. Not sounding arrogant, but with the exception of parking in no-parking zones and leaving shopping trolleys in the parking lot, I cannot relate to any of the other bad habits. Let me explain -- I park in no-parking zones out of desperation and leave shopping trolleys in the parking lot only when a vehicle is waiting to take my parking space. And I would make sure to leave the trolley out of anyone's way. So why do I and a lot of other like-minded Malaysians not fall into the rude category? Why are there people like you and me who abhor rudeness and inconsiderateness? It's difficult to get a handle on why people are rude or inconsiderate but we can attempt to figure out why.
Take driving on the road -- a Canadian friend who has been living in Malaysia for about 10 years is equally perplexed. "I can't understand it. Most Malaysians I meet are so nice, friendly and helpful but not when they are driving. You have some of the meanest motorists in the planet," he remarked.
There is an explanation -- we have been allowed to get our own way on the road for far too long. We, as a society, are not "educated" or encouraged to make sure everyone else is also as considerate as we are. I am singling this out because the antics on the roads have cost lives. Fatal road accidents are at an alarming rate. Even the reduced statistics are not something to be contented about because the number is still alarming.
Most people blame enforcement. While that is true, I still think that Malaysians themselves should be practising safe driving.
This should be inculcated in us. Sadly, our environment still does not encourage that. Let me tell you a story of my own experience in Toronto, Canada in 2010 while visiting my son who was studying at the University of Waterloo.
In Toronto, as in the rest of Canada, the traffic is right-hand drive, so the vehicles are left-hand drive (LHD) which, for a Malaysian needs getting used to.
On our way back to our hotel at the end of our visit to Niagara Falls, I was aware that I was always veering to the other side of the road.
This worried my son, Adel Hakim, who said: "Mum, don't be surprised if someone complains about your driving." I didn't quite believe him until I got to our hotel when two patrol cars arrived.
An officer emerged from the car and asked if I had just pulled into the vicinity from the highway. To cut a long story short, they received a report about a car -- the description fitted the one I was driving -- that was going "this way and that". After a simple explanation of who and where I was from, why I was driving that way and a scrutiny of my international driver's licence, the polite officer let me off with "take care and enjoy the rest of your stay" and I thanked him for responding to the anxious complaint from a motorist.
Canadians are very considerate drivers. Throughout my stay in Toronto, I heard no honking except once -- a gentle honk from the car behind because I was in the wrong lane. Tell me -- how many times have you been angered by drivers on the road? Imagine calling the police every time we see that.
Someone compared Malaysians with Singaporeans. You just can't because Singapore made it a national commitment way back in 1968 when the government introduced the Bus Safety and Courtesy Campaign and from 1972 to 1973, the National Safety First Council Road Courtesy campaign and the Safety and Courtesy campaign week.
I'd like to think that this situation on the road is largely concentrated in the Klang Valley and Penang because I've never seen the same in other cities or major towns.
I am still hopeful that it will get better for us some day when traffic enforcement, changed mindset and psyche on the importance of safety in preventing loss of lives on the road, and a sense of pride of ourselves, all come together.
For one thing, not all of us are that ugly although the bad apples seem to be making a mark.
That nice and friendly Malaysian is not an endangered species. But if you ask me, those bad apples who have been getting their way for far too long because they need educating and if constant hammering to the psyche is needed, it is never too late to do it.