By YS Chan
Those who live or regularly pass by rough neighbourhoods often encounter challenging or dangerous situations. They learned to be streetwise by acquiring the right attitude, skills and instincts to navigate safely, always mindful not to attract unwanted attention or incite hostility.
They opt for safer routes and make a quick exit the moment they sense trouble is brewing. They stay alert and is aware of the hazards and people nearby, and those observing from a distance.
Today, we have become more engaged with the virtual world than face-to-face interaction with others, be it loved ones or strangers.
It is now common to see a group of people to be silently staring at their smartphones around the dining table rather than being engaged in conversation. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic and having the mask on most of the time, such gatherings have lost their luster.
A lot of people are addicted to smartphones without them realising it. It may be harmless to check for messages first thing in the morning or doing that right before you go to sleep at night. But once out on the streets or in public spaces, it is a different ballgame altogether, as danger could be lurking and can strike unexpectedly.
Those walking without watching their steps and looking up could easily trip or knock into something while too preoccupied with their phones. A phone could be ripped off the victim’s hand in a split second.
The highly dangerous, and alarmingly the most frequent situations, occur when motorists and sometimes motorcyclists are distracted by their smartphones. It is common to see drivers having the phone in one hand and steering the wheel with the other.
Some could be texting, reading messages or watch videos on their smartphones or tablets mounted on the dashboard. Cars with stereo at full blast could be heard by others but the drivers would not be able to hear any warning sound that spells danger.
However, the most challenging situation occurs when a driver stops his vehicle to confront another for cutting into his lane or after a collision. Altercations could also happen to pedestrians on a street or visitors at a public place, and those in groups tend to be chauvinistic.
After being wronged, those who are vengeful are quick to weaponise their smartphones and use them to record the perpetrators, confident that they are protected by the recording but without realising that such actions are highly provocative and could escalate to violence.
While the recording may provide some evidence that the other party was in the wrong, it would be pointless if one dies from such an exercise.
In a dangerous situation, it is better to flee than to challenge, as others may not reason logically, bearing in mind that 29% of Malaysians had depression and anxiety disorder compared with 12% in 2011, according to the 2017 National Health and Morbidity Survey.
With the pandemic still raging in all its fury, it would be no surprise if it had shot past 50% today. Hence, it would be foolish to expect people on the streets to act rationally when they are highly emotional or erratic in a tricky or hostile situations.
Moreover, those who plan to rob or steal are prepared to hurt victims to get what they want.
Recently, a car with two persons travelling to Port Klang stopped after being rear-ended by another car with four persons in it at Taman Sentosa, Klang. As the driver waited, the passenger started to record on video while those from the other car acted unreasonably and aggressively.
It turned out they were robbers. One of them tried to break the driver’s door glass with his palms but failed. So, he picked up something solid from his car and threw at the window glass, shattering it to pieces. Inexplicably, the car remained as it were.
After that, the driver was dragged out and savagely beaten with a stick as if bent on revenge. Within 12 hours, all four suspects, aged between 23 and 35 were arrested. They are all jobless and were under the influence of methamphetamine during the robbery and assault.
Remember, it is better to flee than wait and see. And do not be deceived if you see only a driver in the car that rear-ended yours as others could be hiding out of sight. Do not expect bystanders to come rushing to your rescue as they may not be entirely sure what was going on.
Only those that are a safe distance away may take photos or videos, as these recordings would help police to apprehend the perpetrators and use as evidence for the criminal acts committed. But if you are the victim, take flight and do not fight, as accomplices may suddenly emerge.
Not only that, all too often, people let their guard down by removing their masks to talk to others while standing, or if seated around a table, before, during and after meals, with some bellowing with laughter spreading joy that could become miseries.
Too many are not practising physical distancing and breathing through the gaps around the mask, which are worn more to avoid getting summonses than blocking COVID-19. Perhaps, those not afraid to die have not thought of prolonged sufferings before succumbing to death.
Hence, it is imperative that we learn to be streetwise and ward of the lurking dangers that may be as microscopic as a virus; as fast as a car hurtling at more than 30 metres per second; as irritating as someone under the influence of alcohol; or as menacing as a person high on drugs, or even someone who just had a rough day. – May 1, 2021
YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies, master trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia. He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.