The fifth lane: The life lessons that I learned while I was stuck in a traffic jam at Mbudzi

Strive Karadzangare | June 7, 2021

The saying that patience is a virtue had almost became cliche to me because I had heard it so many times, without practically appreciating its meaning. It was not until I witnessed a traffic jam along my way home, that I practically learned the value of patience. From the traffic jam scenario, I also also became aware of the benefits of insightful thinking and self-discipline. Please allow me to take you on the tedious but interesting part of my daily commuting routine: The congested Mbudzi roundabout, in Harare.

Vehicles stuck in a traffic jam at Mbudzi Roundabout in Harare (On a bad day a vehicle can take about 3 hours to cross the intersection)

The time was 6:30 pm. The bus suddenly screeched to a halt. "Not again!", I silently exclaimed with a frown on my face. The Mbudzi roundabout intersection was congested again. Or I could say that it was "locked", using a colloquial term that was coined by local commuters who experience the daily frustration of passing by the congested intersection. I immediately felt a chill running through my spine when I realized that it would take a long time before our bus could move past the intersection and that I could definitely arrive home late due to the traffic congestion. Almost simultaneously I realised that I could miss family dinner that evening and that realisation made me even more anxious.

So to lessen my anxiety I started brainstorming ideas about how I could extricate myself from the sticky traffic jam. "What am I to do ?", I thought, whilst I jitteringly sat on my seat. "Should I get off the bus, cross the intersection on foot and get another bus on the other side or should I just be patient ?", I asked myself. As my mind was figuring out a solution, my eyes suddenly picked up something interesting that was happening outside. What I saw unexpectedly grabbed my attention and got me thinking.

As I gazed through the bus window I noticed a development that was apparently, exacerbating the congestion at the intersection: vehicles that were moving along our direction had colonized the part of the road that was meant for the oncoming traffic. By so doing, they were partially blocking oncoming traffic. The drivers of those vehicles were supposed to join a long queue of drivers who eagerly awaited their chance to steer their vehicles across the roundabout intersection. However, they were very impatient and unwilling to join the long queue. So, to bypass the long queue, they drove into adjacent lanes which were meant for the oncoming vehicles. That was possible because of the transient utilisation of oncoming lanes by oncoming vehicles. Such unscrupulous behaviour is not uncommon at other intersections in Harare, it is in fact the reason why many commuters in Harare spend long hours trying to get from one point to the other. However, at this point, the ill-mannered motorists unrestrictedly broke road traffic rules since no traffic police officers were manning that part of the intersection.

In time, the vehicles that were travelling along our direction had successfully colonized all the lanes meant for oncoming traffic. They had managed to turn a double laned two-way highway into a four-lane one-way road. Thus, all the oncoming vehicles were forced to use a parking lane as they emerged past the roundabout intersection. However, it too was later colonized by vehicles which were travelling in our direction. Thus, the parking lane was turned into the fifth lane, by vehicles that were travelling along our direction.

A rough caricature of the scenario (A better diagram is definitely warranted 😂 )

The effect was that all the vehicles from the opposite direction were forced to use the unpaved peripheries of the highway, a development which subsequently resulted in the build-up of traffic on the other side of the roundabout. That was so because impatient drivers at that side of the junction had also begun to colonise the transiently-unutilised highway lanes which were meant for traffic from our direction. Such a development effectively meant that navigable space for vehicles travelling along my direction had become very narrow at the other side of the intersection. Definitely, our bus driver would have a hard time navigating through such a narrow space, that awaited us at the other side of the roundabout intersection. So, since the impatient drivers from our side had partially blocked road access to oncoming traffic, the impatient oncoming drivers had reflexively yet unknowingly, done a similar thing on the other side. It was nearly a deadlock. Everyone was forced to use the narrow space that remained on the edges of the road. To safely manoeuvre through such a cramped space, drivers were left with no choice but to drive slowly. Ideally, the whole set-up was unsustainable. So the move made by the impatient drivers of occupying oncoming lanes only worsened the situation rather than improving it. That kind of experience represents a typical journey that I take on a rough day, from the city centre back home.

Against this backdrop, I managed to infer an important lesson: Certain decisions that you and I can make in an attempt to solve a problem may worsen the problem itself. In the scenario I have just outlined, impatient drivers were colonising the oncoming lanes in a bid to solve the problem but they only worsened the problem. Of course, I do not intend to criticize the drivers who drove into foreign lanes, in a bid to avoid the long queue. Neither do I want to sound judgemental. All I intend to do is divulge a lesson that I learned from a misguided practice that is typically witnessed at most if not all of Harare's major congested intersections.

From that particular scenario, I figured out that we must be very cautious, and think critically when solving real-life problems. When trying to solve a problem we should be extra wary of certain quick fixes to problems that stem from wrong motives, such as greed, selfishness and impatience. Needless to say that many of the solutions that backfire are those done using unconventional approaches that may have aspects that deviate from societal norms. Of course, there are times when we may have to improvise to get things done quickly, but sometimes we just have to modestly admit that we have no immediate solutions and patiently follow conventionally acceptable means to solve the problem. Of course, that doesn't mean that you just have to sit and relax. You may have to take some action which will not worsen the problem further. So before attempting to solve a life problem you have to critically evaluate the possible repercussions of a solution before committing. Think of the impact that it may have on both yourself and other people around you.

From the misguided behaviour of motorists at the Mbudzi roundabout which elicited the formation of a sticky traffic jam, I managed to infer an interesting lesson on patience and sound judgement when making decisions. It was an interesting lesson that I learned from the most unusual scenario. So yes, sometimes the most amazing lessons can be drawn from unusual phenomena. In my case, it was motorist behaviour at a congested intersection. What lessons can you also draw from unusual events? Well, you have to find out. Of course, it is exhilarating to discover such lessons, but what is most important is taking the lesson to heart and applying it when the need arises.

I hope you also enjoyed reading this article. Please leave your comment if you did. As well, please sign up to receive updates about new articles.

#criticalthinking #problemsolving #patience #prudence #lessons #NoToBadDriving

Finding it hard to read personal growth books ~ How to stay motivated
Tapera Rukwanha Loved the curicature, i was like not bad...just a bit more needed to perfect it. Truly impatience is toxic, patience is key.
Strive Karadzangare Indeed!!!