THE ALICIA WALLACE COLUMN: Imagine, keeping calm behind a bus until it’s ready to move off

I know very few people in Nassau who do not hate driving. I know some who plan their days around peak traffic times, some who get someone else to drive, some who play a particular genre of music to keep themselves calm and some who complain about it every single time they have to do it.

Even newly licenced drivers eventually come to dislike the traffic that comes with their increase in independence. Parents remind their children: “You ain’ just drivin’ for you. You drivin’ for you and them.”

Every time a traffic light turns green, we have to wait for a few cars to run the red light before we go. On roundabouts, we must be constantly vigilant of the people refusing to yield and those who are in the wrong lane and could hit us if we are not ready to avoid it.

We lose time and sometimes come close to accidents when others do not use signals when making their turns. Potholes slow us down, people stopping to chat with others in incoming traffic bring us to a stop, and tourists on scooters make us nervous as they all-too-happily get in the mix.

There is already too much to think about, pay attention to, anticipate and navigate around. Mobile devices should not be a part of the equation, but we have all seen people (almost) causing accidents who were obviously distracted. All of this contributes to bad moods, anxiety and noise pollution. These things happen elsewhere too, but it is a bit different in a small place where we complain there are too many cars.

One of the things I noticed during my recent time in Barbados was the general calm and patience of drivers. Over the course of nine months, I only ever saw three cars overtake others. People typically wait their turns to get out of corners, stop to let pedestrians cross the street and, most shockingly to me, waited behind stopped buses for as long as it took for them to start moving again. Where possible, buses pulled to the side of the road, but drivers did not appear to be irritated when they were stopped for a minute or two. I found this perplexing.

I could not help but ask a few Barbadians why they are so relaxed on the road. Responses typically pointed to the size of the island, the true distance they were traveling, and knowing they will get to where they are going anyway. No one said they leave earlier or plan for delays, or even when there is traffic, it moves at a reasonable speed, but I imagine these are factors too.

I do not enjoy driving in Nassau, but it has to be done. I made a decision a few years ago, after spending a few years getting riled up by other drivers, to make better plans for the current reality. I do as much as I can online and by phone to reduce the time and money I spend going to banks, offices and stores. When I do have to go out, I wait for morning traffic to die down and try to be finished before lunch time. It is a small window, but it has been working for me.

Perhaps most importantly, I try to actively, intentionally choose my responses to traffic events. I may think, “What an idiot,” but I try not to let that turn into a burning desire to tell the person what I think or show them with gestures of frustration. It probably helps that I do not know who is likely to escalate. It is better to allow ourselves more time, find the windows where there is less traffic and commit to remaining as calm as possible.

We have enough challenges. High blood pressure does not need to be one of them.

Discipline takes work

Speaking of high blood pressure, it was impossible to miss how many of us had strong reactions to the parent’s post about his child being beaten at St Augustine’s college. I fully support bringing an end to corporal punishment and I recognise this kind of beating as violence.

The photo shared showed the message being sent by the school official responsible for the black, blue, and purple marks left on that child. It is one of dominance.

This form of punishment is barbaric, ineffective and relies on fear and embarrassment to discipline. Fear and embarrassment, however, are far more likely to lead to anger and resentment.

If you have to cause bodily harm to a child to send a message, you need help with your communication skills. There are better ways, and they may take more time, energy and planning, but isn’t it worth it?

Whether or not you support corporal punishment, I would like to think there is a line and that you see where it was crossed. It has been mind-boggling to read responses from alumni who believe the school official was right because they had the same experience and “turned out fine”, or because that institution could do no wrong in their eyes.

We should all be able to see that there is room to do much better. We should understand that research, experience and the differences between generations require us to innovate, change the way we do things and respond to the needs of today’s society.

Schools have introduced summer uniforms when no one thought it would ever happen. It is a response to changing conditions.

Each generation learned math in a different way, so most of our parents had challenges in helping us with our homework.

Things change. Why should this barbaric act that has long masqueraded as discipline remain the same?

The rod of correction can take many forms. It does not have to be the beam that breaks our children’s backs while crushing their spirits, teaching them to do the same to others. To require more of them, we have to be willing to give more ourselves.

Let’s think about what that could look like and how we can guide young people with a positive view of their energy and individual (as well as highly generalised generational) characteristics rather than a disdain for youth and desperation to control without reason.

We are building the future every day, with everything we do. Leave violence out of it.

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