Would you find it strange if I placed a stool 3 feet into a busy road and invited you to sit on it?
Apart from the weirdness of the whole thing, I know you would decline the invitation fearing for your safety. We know that most Malaysian drivers need to get from point A to B in the shortest time possible. If cyclists and crossing pedestrians do not normally serve as impediments one should avoid hitting in one’s endeavour to reach one’s destination quickly, why should a person sitting almost in the middle of the road be treated any differently?
But somehow it might not seem so strange if it wasn’t a solitary stool that was placed on the road but a collection of table and chairs with other people seated on them already.
I am not sure what the appeal is of patronizing this sub-species of open-air eating establishments. So for the purpose of research, I braved myself and sat myself on one of those wobbly plastic chairs to enjoy a teh tarik (the things I do for you, honestly).
After 5 minutes I felt like every driver was trying to murder me but changed his mind at the very last second. I concluded that the attraction must not be dissimilar to bungee jumping. There are people who would pay (although the cost of my teh tarik adventure is significantly less) to experience the thrill of feeling like you are about to die. But with the roadside teh tarik, the possibility of dying unexpectedly in the process from a combination of a road accident and dysentery is not quite eliminated.
It’s not as if such a scenario has not been played out before. At around 2.00 a.m. on May 25, 2003 a young lady by the name of Charlene Joseph Jindi drove along Jalan 14/14 in Section 14, Petaling Jaya. For reasons which are not totally clear she crashed into several tables placed outside a mamak restaurant on the road. One person was killed and 6 others were injured. She was subsequently charged with reckless driving and causing death and injury.
What was interesting was that her lawyer during the trial argued that "the accident took place on the road where the restaurant patrons were not supposed to be sitting." The court has not decided on the case yet and it remains to be seen how the magistrate, who probably had a roadside teh tarik himself the day before, will view this argument. Perhaps the lawyer might do better arguing that she was using the rearview mirror to apply her make-up at the time.
But don't think that sitting quietly in the safety of your own home could insulate you from this type of danger.
At 11 a.m. on May 11 2007, 70-year old Madam P. Saravathy had just stepped into her kitchen to make curry when a tipper lorry laden with stones and soil crashed into her double-storey corner lot home in Bangsar and landed in her living room. The lorry driver claimed that he was driving downhill and tried to steer the vehicle to safety but failed. It is likely that he will be charged under Section 43(1) of Road Transport Act 1987 for careless and inconsiderate driving.
I would say he was indeed very inconsiderate as the least he could do was to time the event to coincide with a suitable episode of AXN’s World’s Most Amazing Crashes. That would probably have enhanced the sound effects and added to the excitement of Madam Saravathy and her neighbours in a more positive manner.
It is no surprise that some road-users and pedestrians alike have this lack of concern when it comes to the safety of themselves and others on the road. This apathetic attitude is probably instilled from small. How often have you seen circus acts as below on the road?
And poking your head through the sunroof while your car is cruising to pretend that you are the queen of a homecoming parade may be fun but it’s one way of increasing the chances of your head arriving at your destination much earlier than the rest of your body.
I could go on about Mat Rempit, motorcyclists who don’t switch on their lights at night and pedestrians who think that overhead bridges are merely decorative structures but I feel quite tired and thirsty after all this writing. I feel like having a teh ais my local mamak. And I’m going to sit inside. Far inside.