Life lessons # 1: dealing with recalcitrant drivers, banks, call centre employees and such

Dealing with all the maniacs who ‘drive’ on the roads is an important life lesson. Honestly, it is. Consider the kind of people who drive – there are those who just have to straddle two lanes, just in case they get a chance to squirm through minute gaps and get ahead by one vehicle; then there are those who feel that every 20 seconds or so they must shatter the silence of Indian roads with a toot on the horn (isn’t that what the horn is for?); then there are those who think hands-free refers to driving – one hand on the wheel, the car on second gear and one can chug along chatting on the phone; then there are those- especially two-wheelers – who believe they are in the US and insist on the driving on the right side (of course accompanied by some furious honking); and not to mention autos who believe they are cycles and weave in and out without being hampered by things called mufflers which mute the racket their vehicle makes.

Driving amidst all this madness and staying sane is an invaluable skill that if it could be bottled and sold, could make one an handsome profit. And while I don’t really have that skill (sigh! There goes a quickfire way of making a fast buck!), I have learnt to manage reasonably well. And that’s one thing my mother taught me.

Her point is that it is counter productive to get angry and start yelling. It only makes you look silly, antagonises the other person and then reduces all of us to a sub-human level because we tend to start hurling abuses. The truly difficult thing is to stay calm, talk rationally and politely, and if that doesn’t solve the issue one can escalate things but not by yelling. How would one escalate things? Well, this incident brought home the point.

My mother and I were going out (I don’t remember for what, maybe shopping or visiting) and as she drove the car down our street, we realised that a water lorry had parked diagonally across our rather narrow street and we couldn’t go past him. There were two men perched atop the lorry waiting while the sump of a neighbour’s house was being filled. My mother, instead of honking, got out and called out politely, “Brother, why are you parked like this? Can’t you see you are blocking the way?” The chap casually replied that the hose was too short and the only way he could manage was parking in this fashion. My mother tried telling him that it wasn’t an acceptable reason to inconvenience others and he just shrugged and started ignoring her. After a couple of attempts to find out if he was going to move anytime soon and getting no response, she walked back to the car and told me to take a notebook and pen. She then walked briskly up to the lorry, climbed up to the driver’s cabin and took the key out of the ignition. Jumping down, she called out to me and said, “note the licence number of the lorry and the company name and phone number.” (The company’s information of course was advertised on the vehicle. Then she turned around and told the guy perched on top, “I’m going out for a few hours. When I come back you can come and collect the keys to the lorry.” Of course, the guy jumped down and came running and apologised and said he would move the lorry in a minute if she would only give the keys back.

And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s how you escalate things.

It’s something I’ve managed to use successfully on occasion. When my bank cleared a cheque of mine which was tampered with (someone had struck out the name I had written and written another name and deposited it in a different bank), my bank was most unhelpful. They would not admit their mistake and gave me the run around. At that time, my leg was in a cast and I found travelling very tough. So finally, I told the bank I had heard of an RBI ombudsman where I could complain and I had found cases identical to mine where all the banks concerned had had to compensate the customer. In addition, I gave them my visiting card, and said please note what I do for a living (at that time I was an journalist), and please be informed that as a temporarily disabled person who you are subjecting to mental and physical torture, I shall take this up with the ombudsman and the consumer court even if it takes years because now I’m extremely annoyed with you.

The next day, they miraculously found a way to solve my problem.


~ by Sumana Narayanan on May 11, 2015.

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