This short story is about something I learned living in Colombia that could at least enhance empathy, and at most, save your life in any country.
The short version – at traffic lights, allow space between you and the car in front. Give enough space so you could take action and drive at any time necessary (reasons in the longer short-story below).
And, lock your doors before or at traffic lights because it stops people getting in your car so easily.
Intro: When someone tells you about something with conviction, but doesn’t give you the full picture, it can be tricky to understand why the “thing” they are talking about is so important to them – until you experience it.
A probing questions like “is there a specific reason for doing this so I can understand more clearly?” can often shift perspective and even save your life…
THE FULL STORY:
For 5 years I’ve been living part time in Bogota, Colombia, part time in the UK and part in the USA.
During these cultural experience I’ve learned some very interesting things and I’d love to share some with you…
A few years ago, while out of town at a “finca” (holiday home out of the city), my girlfriend strongly insisted we wait for the family so we could travel back to Bogota in Convoy (a couple of cars together).
In that moment I found her tone a bit annoying and said I’d rather we just get going, especially because when I first learned to drive (in the UK) I was told not to travel in convoy because it distracts the driver from the road (focusing on the other cars instead).
We ended up waiting and traveling in fairly close proximity back to the capital. I didn’t want to wait so I was a bit annoyed at first….
BUT, I didn’t realise how important it was. Or at least the lesson that was about to come a few weeks later…
On a separate trip out through the South of Bogota, the lights turned from orange to red, forcing us to stop at a large junction.
As soon as the lights turned red a very disheveled man appeared from the side of the road. He looked as if he had been on the streets for decades, dirty with soot. His clothes were all torn, though more unnerving was the thick 4ft piece of wood he was carrying that had long nail jutting out the side.
He appeared to be talking to himself and had an evil look on his face… Before coming to us he went to the car in front, who was actually right in front of the junction, with space to move. As the guy approached their car they jolted a few feet forward away from him, crossing the junction line by a few feet.
We were next…. he came to the drivers side tyre and tapped it with the stick, then to the rear wheel, next the other rear wheel, and approached the passenger side and swung back the stick quickly about to smash through the window…
My girlfriend screamed DRIVE!!!!! I put my foot down and managed to swerve past the car in front, stop for second, look for any crossing cars and I drove straight through the junction away to carry on the journey.
It was massively unnerving, we both got the biggest adrenaline “dump” we’d ever had and it took us a good 10 minutes or so to calm again….
From that movement I understood why it is a good idea, especially in unknown territory, to travel in convoy.
Yes we got away, but if the car in front of behind had been a family member or friend we’d have had backup and the entire journey would have felt much more comfortable AND we’d have more easily been able to get away…
In another scenario, traveling in convoy means that more than likely the car in front or behind will be your amigo and not a potential bandit who may block you in while others rob you. Sounds drastic, but that’s a very real, every day scenario for some people.
WOW, when I read that back it sounds really quite intense… the simple message is that by creating space you edge your bets, you give yourself the room to maneuver, you create an extra sense of freedom… AND, it’s good to be with loving friends and family so you can watch each others back.
We all have our learnings, our past experiences, and sometimes it’s tricky for someone from one culture to have any idea why others are doing certain things or acting in a certain way…. when we share and communicate together as clearly and openly as possible, life flows so much more beautifully…
Thanks for being here now.