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Shortcut to Hell ...

December 05, 2012

So what really happens when it rains in the region? I say the region because regardless of whether it is Dar es Salaam, or Nairobi or Kampala, the reaction is the same. It baffles me really. Do the roads suddenly become smaller? Or do drivers become dumb? I ask these questions because the things that happen on the road when it rains are unbelievable.

If you were on the roads this last Thursday, then you will agree with me that the scenario was maddening to say the least.  The situation was the same in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and though I was in neither of these two places, I was seeing updates on Twitter and as selfish as this may sound, it was comforting to realize that I was not the only person suffering the same fate. A few thousand others and I were caught up in some nasty traffic around the Mlandizi-Misugusugu check-point, on the way to Dar from Chalinze area. If I may say so, this is one of the areas I had not expected to find traffic.

Being within the coastal region, you can imagine how humid it was, and of course the heat emanating from the vehicles all around was not helping.  Fortunately it was past 7pm, meaning the sun had completely gone down; imagine how it would have been had it been during the day? Even more fortunate was the fact that it had stopped raining, at least for the time being. What a mess it would have been had it been raining like it had earlier done. Anyway, I decided to step out of the vehicle I was in to see for myself what was happening.  Let’s just say I wished I hadn’t seen what I saw. It totally demoralized me and I felt like I was never going to get to Dar Es Salaam before morning. Long trucks, tractors, long distance buses, lorries, mini-buses, small vehicles, etc, name it, it was there stuck in that traffic. Who knows, maybe there was a train in the mix too.

Some intelligent person called the cops who came in to try sort out the problem, but even they couldn’t help immediately. Two cops were forced to go each 10kms away in opposite directions to start the process of unblocking the traffic from those two points.  It took them two and a half hours, plus many confiscated car keys to finally unblock the traffic. By the way, would you like to know what had caused the congestion? I will tell you anyway; some dumb smart drivers who decided to overlap because I guess they thought they were in a lot more hurry than anyone else on the road. If you have had a chance to pass through this road then you know only two vehicles can pass at any given time because there is no lane for a third vehicle, be it on coming or forward going.

The most interesting thing is that even in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, the bumper-to-bumper traffic jams had been caused by overlapping drivers! At the end of the day (night to be precise) what was meant to be a quick way out of a seemingly bad situation ended up being worse than it would have been had people exercised patience and observed traffic rules. I would have arrived home less tired at 8pm and not close to mid-night like I did, and of course by the time I arrived home I was not only tired but somewhat grumpy too.

This scenario plays out in so many other areas of our lives. We take so many shortcuts in life thinking we are being “smart” only to find ourselves in near-impossible jams that cost us more than it would have been, had we followed the right procedures/regulations. Yes I admit I have taken quite a few of them in my life and some have cost me dearly; still “paying” for some. I have however learnt my lessons and now I do whatever I can to ensure I do not fall into (shortcut) temptation.

Let me highlight some of the shortcuts so common in our society today...

Think of that university student who has been offering sexual favors to her lecturers in order to get “good” grades in university. Or that young lady who just started working in one of the highly esteemed organizations, but wants to fast-forward her promotion and so she uses her body for this purpose.  At the end of the day, who is fooling who here? One day soon someone will realize that behind that beautiful face and nicely packaged CV is nothing but a coconut head. At that point not even the two cops mentioned above will be able help her untangle herself from the jam she will find herself in.

Looking at another scenario, the mushrooming skyscrapers and residential buildings that are coming up in the region are something to be weary of too. We have seen some collapse while others are a disaster waiting to happen. Take Kariakoo (Dar Es Salaam) for example, if a fire caught some of those buildings, how would the fire brigade get there?  Some of them are so close to each other to the point that one can actually pass food in a plate to the next building neighbor through the window. I believe that if the right procedures had been followed, and the relevant authority taken keen interest in some of these buildings, then such scenarios would not play out in Kariakoo.

What people do not realize is that though it may not affect you directly, when you decide to take short-cuts the likelihood of affecting other people is very high. For instance, I can bet my life that there are enough people who missed their flights on Thursday evening simply because of the traffic jam. Who caused this? Maybe someone who probably just wanted to be home in time to watch the local comedy show on TBC and so they decided to overlap but as a result, s(he) ended up messing up thousands of people’s schedules – including mine.

As for my fellow women who offer sexual favors to get “good” grades in college and instant “promotions” in your offices, I will tell you this: there are many shortcuts to failure, and that is a fast-forward right there. As for true success, there is no known shortcut except hard work and everything that comes with working hard. Besides, the satisfaction one gets in knowing that what you have achieved has been done fair and square is comparable to nothing else.

As we start a new week and a new month for that matter, my challenge to you and I both is that we follow the right procedures in everything we do and avoid shortcuts. Starting from the roads, drive safely, avoid overlapping, give way where you should, practice courtesy on the roads, use your safety belt always and not just when you see cops in front of you, and avoid breaking traffic rules even when no cop is seeing you.

The next time you are tempted to take a shortcut, remember what J. Tolkien said “Shortcuts make for long delays”. You might just take a shortcut and end up in some hell.... 

Have a non-jammed week.

PS: This article appeared on the 2nd December 2012, in one of the Weekly Newspapers in Tanzania, "Guardian on Sunday", under my column known as Thoughts in Words.



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