Monthly Archives: July 2011

No entry at the traffic lights

My niece travels by bus, and she shared this incident with me a few weeks back.

While getting back from work, she was seated in the front of the bus.  When the bus stopped at a signal in a queue behind other buses, she noticed an elderly man peering at the route number of a bus ahead of them.  He then requested the driver to open the door so that he could get down and move to the other bus.  She reckoned that it must be taking him closer to his destination than the bus that she was on.  After grumbling a bit, the driver did open the door and allowed the elderly man to alight from the bus.  Thereafter, the following conversation took  place in Kannada, but written in English here:

Driver to conductor: There he goes trying to get into that bus.  That driver will not open the door, you watch.

Conductor: Why?  What is the issue?

Driver: Arrey, he got fined just yesterday by the b#$8& checking squad fellows for stopping the bus before the bus stand, and allowing a lady to board the bus.

Conductor: Oh, OK, Yeah, in that case the old man will try to come back to our bus.

Driver: Yeah, let him come back.  I will not open the door then!

Conductor: Good good.  Yeah, why should you take a chance and get fined?  Also, it will teach him a lesson!  Trying to change buses at a signal.

The driver was right.  The driver of the bus ahead indeed did not open the door.  Dissapointed, the elderly man came back to my niece’s bus and requested from outside to the driver to open the door.  The driver acted busy talking to the conductor, as if not aware of this request. The signal lights turned green, and traffic began moving once again. To add insult to injury, once the bus started moving, though slowly, the driver opened the door and gestured the old man to board.  He did not.  He could not.  The bus moved on leaving the elderly man behind.

Are you disgusted by the attitude of the BMTC drivers and conductor?  Most of us would be.  As was my niece.  Was I?  Initially, a strong yes, but on reflection, I was not so strong about it.

Let me explain.  Someone in BMTC is sitting and writing some rules.  Like it or not, the driver and conductor are expected to follow it.  If they do not, they can expect to be fined.  So, if the rule says, passengers can alight anywhere, but board the bus only at the bus stop, both drivers were correct in not opening the door for the elderly man at the traffic lights.

What do you say?  What behaviour would you want to see as a passenger?  What if you were a passenger in a bus at a signal behind the bus of which the driver is happily picking up passengers instead of moving ahead?

SMS me the money

I got this message on my mobile 2 days back:

Look at the month of July. You have never seen this. This year, July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This apparently happens once every 823 years. This is called money bags. So send this on to 6 friends and money will arrive in 5 days. Based on Chinese mythology the one who does not pass this one will have money troubles for the rest of the year. It wont cost you much for that 6 text messages.

Hmmm … Given that I did not heed the advise and forward it to 6 friends, I can surely look forward to money troubles for the rest of the year. Given that it is a Chinese mythology, it will not end on Dec 31 2011, but extend into 2012 too – possibly till the Chinese New Year date in Feb 2012?

Let us assume that the person who sent me the message must have sent it to at least 6 people. Many of the 6, sent it to another 6 who too possibly sent it on to another 6. You get the drift right? The way I see it, the only ones laughing their way to the bank are the mobile service operators. One message at a time.

This got me thinking. Why is it I chose not to forward it, while others did? Is it that they really believed that bags full of money would land at their doorstep, or perhaps into their bank accounts after 5 days? Why is it that some are believers, and others are not? The human brain – the way we are wired genetically – is the answer says my friend Akash.

One possible reason is that we humans see patterns where none exist.  I kept my promise of cycling in the morning, hence I got to see the movie free in the evening.  I prayed for my child, and thus she got good marks in the test. And so on … This is most likely not a conscious thinking process. So, I send a similar message last time, and got Rs. 1000/- back from my friend that I had given up on.  Maybe this time I will get Rs. 100000/-!

Second possible reason is how our brains have been wired over 10’s of thousands of years.  Imagine two of your ancestors going into the jungle with nothing more than just a wooden stick in hand.  They hear a noise coming from the bushes ahead.  One of them does not bother about it.  The other is more cautious and takes a step back.  Unfortunately, out comes a rather large and hungry lioness, and ancestor #1 becomes a meal quite soon.  Ancestor #2’s brain gets one more reinforcement of the message – “When you see a bush shake/or hear the sound of it, BE AWARE!  This in turn got passed down the generation, till such time as our more recent ancestors did not have to think twice about the flight response!

Let us now consider the opposite effect.  It was the wind shaking the bushes.  No lioness.  No ancestor as a meal.  Good.  One more reinforcement.  And passed down the ages too.  No need to flee.

How are these related to Money bags?  The pattern association makes us see pattern between sending the message and us getting money, even if none exist.  With the cost of sending the message being so neglible and with no negative effect visible – the brain says “What is the worst case here?  I do not get any money, but the best case is I get lots of it, why take a chance to miss out on it, when the cost of the SMS is so small” – that the forwarding option comes naturally to most of us.

What is interesting in the SMS is that it refers to Chinese mythology to support the forwarding.  Wonder how the ancient Chinese do the forwarding?  On stone tablets?  So easy, na?  🙂  Once they invented paper, they must have been copying the message onto bits of paper (costly as it must have been!) and distributing it to friends.  Or maybe they invented SMS centuries back, just that the rest of the world did not know about it!

Here’s wishing all believers bags full of money pretty soon, even if I am the one to bear all the hardship for the rest of the year!  🙂