Frogger and Moving Forward
Remember the classic 80s game where you had to help the frog cross the street? Now imagine that you are the frog and you have to get yourself from one side of the road to the next in the midst of fifty motorbikes, bicycles, trucks, you name it.
While the traffic can get crazy in the States, the drivers at least stayed in their respective lanes. One of the cultural shocks I and many foreign tourist encounter in Vietnam is the crazy traffic. If traffic lanes exist in Vietnam, then they are either worn off or hidden by the amount people on the road. In other words, they do not exist. The shear chaos can be enough to cause a panic attack.
Traits and symptoms of a new patient overwhelmed by the traffic congestion include the tendency(ies) to:
- stare ahead at a focus point
- look quickly from side to side hoping to find a gap somewhere
- mumble incoherent words or phrases (denial)
- step back and continue walking in the previous direction (avoidance)
- give up on the thought of crossing the street
I am guilty of all of these actions. I would rather continue to walk down my side of the street and stare wishfully at the other side than to cross the street.
I used to admire people who accomplish this so casually.
Then I figured it out, you simply have to move forward. The drivers will avoid you. Instead of the full “yield to pedestrian” experience, where all the incoming drivers will come to an abrupt stop for you to safely cross, you will likely get the limited version. You get to one point of the road, the driver heading towards you will swerve to another part, you take another step forward, another driver swerves, and so on. Occasionally, you will get one driver that will stop, stare at you, and then drive on. It is like the Fast and Furious’ version of splitting water. Take a deep breath and walk forward. Nice slow steps.
The Vietnamese don’t truly stop. They simply move forward, at different rates. You could interpret it as regardless of the obstacles ahead, you just have go forward.
Check out how the pros cross the street.