Tuesday, January 7, 2014
BUS TRIP IN TEHRAN
Good day and I hope you are having a great day. I was traveling in the Middles East recently visiting my father who was very sick. Despite the reason for my visit, I found an interesting positive perspective and of all the places it came from my use of the Iranian Public Transportation System.
At first glance this could have been a really bad situation, especially for someone from California who is used to having his own car. I was however, in a specially grateful mental state. Perhaps it was because I had no phone, no computer, no internet to distract me. Just utter peace and quiet from the technology that inundates my life on a daily bases. Truth be told, I would not have lasted 30 seconds driving in Tehran. It is one of the most amazing things I have witnessed. I have driven in Paris, Frankfurt, Boston and Los Angeles, but nothing compares. The only way I can explain it is “organized Chaos”. It was like an elaborate choreographed car chase dreamed up in Hollywood. Cars, Buses, mopeds, and pedestrians, flow effortlessly at the same time in 6 lanes of traffic, at times missing each other by mere inches. Yet there is very little accidents. Traffic signals and rules of the road have no meaning. Perhaps they do but I could not make any sense of it. I was amazed that on any U.S. Highway there are numerous amount of accidents daily, even hourly causing a backlog of traffic issues, but here nothing.
I had an occasion to use a Taxi, and it was like a ride-a-long with an experienced race car driver in a crowded obstacle course. I was so amazingly grateful that among all this chaos everyone gets where they are going without getting hurt. Mainly me. That thought led me to be thankful for the amazing convenience of my own vehicle back home. For the rules and regulations that keep things orderly. It was really eye-opening. Then came the bus rides I took. Like any other part of the world the public transportation is crowded. What I was not prepared for however, was the immense amount of courtesy displayed by people who in my previous experience in other parts of the world, should have been frustrated.
I have ridden the buses, and metros in London, Chicago, Paris, and even New York. In most cases, the drivers, and passengers rarely talked or looked at you. There is a sort of perpetual lack of expression and even frown on people’s faces from my experience. Here in Tehran things were different. I am not saying everyone was in a Pollyanna jubilees mood, but they were very polite. Imagine the conversation between the driver and the passenger. First of all you do not pay until you reach your destination. With the crowds in the theses buses, it is a sort of an honor system which could very easily be taken advantage of. So the passenger comes to pay, the Driver sais “ghabelli nadareh” (it’s nothing, you honor me), to which the passenger will reply “lotf dareen” (you are too kind, please take this). To many who are not familiar with the Middle Eastern act of “Tarroff” (Flattery) this may seem strange. I found it very humorous and it put me in an instant mood of gratitude even though my 11 km trip took 2 hours. It was one of the most cathartic experiences I have had, and it all started because I was grateful for one small thing.
It occurred to me that since the act of Tarroff is so ingrained in the culture, they do not concentrate on the accidents, and there is no 24 hour media coverage of car accidents or traffic issues to keep on attracting these situations. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of violence covered on their news but at least the car crashes and wrecks are not part of their regular “entertainment”. What you give your attention to you will manifest. So if you have been ingrained to use flattery with strangers, that at least is going to make your day a bit better in a place where there is little to be happy about. It definitely made my day. See, you can always be grateful.