As usual, the Friday lunch was heavy. The twenty-four-hour news channel's sensationalized news stream, spiced up by a background score suitable for a thriller, failed to sustain my attention. The inevitable happened.
I landed up in an unfamiliar city, in the back seat of a sleek taxi driven by a smartly dressed middle-aged driver. His cell phone cried out loud on the empty front seat, flashing multiple colours in a restless pattern. The driver did not move. I touched his arms and pointed
at the phone.
He said, "No, sir; I do not talk on the phone while driving." I was impressed. Drivers, normally, defy rules, ignore elaborate awareness campaigns on safe driving and trivialise penalties to indulge in animated phone calls with one hand on the wheels in most cities. I looked around. Indeed, not a single driver used phones.
Then, I read a big hoarding that said, "Always talk on the phone while driving. Never lose that precious moment to interact with your loved ones". It was issued in public interest by the local metropolitan police authorities.
I walked into a public park. It was so clean and tidy! There was not even a spec of dust anywhere, leave alone empty cans or chips packets. I saw prominently displayed signboards at every hundred metres with the message, "You must litter. At least, spit a couple of times." I rubbed my eyes and read again. Yes, I read it right!
I passed by a few large buildings. Each entrance carried a prominent board - "Park here, now". A big notice on top of a bus stop on the other side of the road read, "Muscle your way; be the first to ride." Crazy! I saw their impressive public library where prominent notices read, "No silence, never".
Perplexed and curious, I went into the mayor's office. After basic pleasantries I asked, "Sir, I have travelled extensively, but have never seen a remarkable city like this before."
"Oh, thank you! What about our city has impressed you so much?"
"Your public information policy is so peculiar, but so effective! You encourage people to talk on phone while driving; no one does! You exhort people to dirty public places; they are spectacularly clean!"
The mayor laughed out loud. He replied, "Ah! You see, we believe every human being is born free and wants to stay free. We salute this indomitable spirit and recognise that the citizens do not like to be told what not to do. They love to disobey.
When your police force bans talking on phone while driving, people resent. They play hide and seek with the officers to flout the rules, risking their own lives. Same goes with a public park. Who on earth is the municipal commissioner to order them to throw garbage only in the dustbins? We exploit people's natural penchant to defy. We deploy anti logic; something that my learned friend would call a reverse psychology.""Anti logic?"
"Yes, we ask people to do exactly what we do not want them to do. They ensure they never do what we ask them to do. We get what we want."
On my way back, the taxi driver drove so fast that I held on to the armrest for my life. I said, "Come on, drive faster."
The taxi driver immediately slowed down. That's when a noisy commercial break on the colourful box brought me back to where I belong!
Ah, anti logic! Eureka! Full of ideas, riding my new found wisdom.
The author is a freelance writer based in Muscat. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.