Courtesy is a Product not a Habit

I sent Goldilocks in for servicing today. The bill was $164.00. Other than the usual engine oil, oil and air filter, I got them to change a bulb in the headlight, tighten my alternator and steering belt. They took the initiative to tighten up the handbrake and noted me a crack in the CV boot at the right side as well as a slight oil leak possibly at the distributor O ring.

The drive back was smooth and dare I say, enjoyable. What fueled Goldilocks also contributed to that, after Mr E shared the benefits of using higher grade petroleum which I tried out curiously to verify. The most important factor was the traffic and road users. Although there is a significant increase in traffic volumes on the road all over Perth (due to increase in migrants), it is still generally pleasant to drive on the roads here. The lanes are also (much) wider than those in Singapore. Most importantly, drivers are not impatient (yet) and generally display good driving manners.

Some people will attribute bad driving habits to nationality or even race. I will not. I am a good testimonial. I was one of the drivers on Singapore roads who could get to destinations faster than the majority of the car population. That wasn't because I drove a mighty fast car. Mighty fast cars don't get you anywhere except being trapped in the traffic jams in Singapore unless you also have some driving skills, as well as plenty of recklessness, inconsideration and aggressiveness. I am not implying I have skills here and I admit I have too much of the latter bad habits.

Unfortunately, without some of the undesirable driving habits, you could get struck on the road for a very, very long time. Try filtering out from a parallel parking lot to the road along Balestier Road at peak hours. Your passenger could finish her dinner in your car still in the same spot if you refuse to cut out aggressively (but safely) to get moving. You can choose to be a gentleman and switch the signal light on but nobody is going to give way to you without getting honked by the next guy behind. So nobody gives way. Try parking along the single lane Angelo Street in South Perth on a busy day. You will be surprised to see someone coming to a complete stop behind you with no honks coming from any of the cars behind the queue. Well unless you spent three or four times screwing up your parallel parking perhaps.

I had countless commutes to work without hearing the sound of a honk for the entire journey. Not just a honk directed at me but to anyone else during my drives. That was remarkable in my opinion, coming from a country where driving to work every morning was fighting a battle of endurance, wits and foul languages. Any Zen Master is welcome to test the results of his meditation retreat by challenging himself to the Trial of Terror.

After a year on road here in Perth, I found myself mellowed down so much. I am like a little lamb as compared to the driver I once were. I could recall how stressed I was watching the road in the passenger seat of the buddy who gave me a lift back home during my first visit to Singapore since I left. I wasn't even the one driving but I could feel the kind of tension on the roads immediately. Consider this, I was once more aggressive on the Singapore roads than this buddy of mine. But there he was, driving like it was the norm like the good old days but my aptitude for that was completely vanquish.

The stress level and the pace of living we have in Singapore is taking a toil on every aspect in our lives. No one can claim that courtesy and stress has zero correlation. In fact, I believe a relaxed person is very likely to be courteous because being discourteous is not a natural action. There must be some kind of driving force or motivation behind it, such as annoying the person in return after you felt annoyed by him or venting your displeasure caused by a third party on someone else, an innocent party.

I've heard about the plan to create Singapore as a gracious society for a long time, perhaps since the PM Lee Kuan Yew days. We never arrived, not even close. Else Singa Lion wouldn't have quit his job, eh? I believe that was because many of us believe that courtesy can be taught or cultivated. I agree guidance does help but to a very basic extent. Beyond that, the stress level of the general public goes a long way as a key factor of graciousness because courtesy is a by-product of the peace of mind.

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