Does the red light mean STOP or not?

spicysaturday[1]“CRRRR….USH!” Everybody in the AC Chair Car coach turned to stare at me as I nonchalantly unscrewed the cap of the mineral water bottle, confirmed that the bottle had indeed been bent out of shape, and screwed the cap back.

Just as I was about to get up from my aisle seat to walk towards the dustbin near the toilet, the lady in the window seat nervously asked me, almost in a whisper, “Why did you do that, sir? You frightened everybody!”

I replied, “Madam, I did what’s supposed to be done. Look here. The label says, “CRUSH THE BOTTLE AFTER USE.” Every such bottle is supposed to be crushed so that it cannot be reused, but has to be sent for recycling. By doing this, we ensure that the bottle is not refilled with ordinary water and sold to an unsuspecting customer.”

“They put such instructions on the bottle because they are supposed to. Nobody follows these instructions,” she insisted.

Realising there was no point in trying to convince this person, I replied, “OK, madam. I’m sorry if I caused you any inconvenience.”

She continued to look at me with a mixture of pity (for me) and concern (for herself) for a few seconds, and then returned to reading her magazine. I walked to the dustbin, disposed of the bottle and returned to my seat.

This is a common occurrence whenever I empty a mineral water bottle in a public place. Strangely, despite the explicit instruction on the label, I know of only one other person who religiously crushes used mineral water bottles after use: my cousin. Must be some kind of family idiosyncrasy!

This is one example of how many of us do not follow some simple and explicitly stated instructions, rules or laws, despite knowing fully well that they have been made for our own good.

Another example: irrespective of whether or not it is compulsory by law, every 2-wheeler rider knows that a helmet protects him/her from head injuries. Yet, it’s common to see bareheaded 2-wheeler riders of all ages and genders. I rode a 2-wheeler for the first few years of my sales career. Despite the fact that it was not compulsory at that time, I always wore a helmet. Later, as a manager, I always insisted that every member of my team wore a helmet while riding a 2-wheeler. I ensured compliance by announcing that I would not authorise monthly fuel reimbursement vouchers of those persons who did not use a helmet every working day. Most people complied willingly, but some persons complained that wearing a helmet would lead to hair loss! I told them that, firstly, this is not correct since I had myself not lost any hair despite having worn a helmet every day for a few years, and secondly, the risk of being bald is better than the risk of death or a head injury. One smart guy replied that he was not afraid of death. I told him there was no guarantee he would die if he had an accident. What if he didn’t die, but became dysfunctional? Would he like his family to go through the trauma? Then, I reminded him that, if he was not wearing a helmet when he had an accident, his accident insurance and/or health insurance claims would probably be rejected. If he died, his life insurance claim would probably be rejected. He had the sense to refrain from replying!

To quote Oprah Winfrey on the chaotic traffic in Indian cities: “What is it with the red lights? I mean, does the red light mean stop or not? Or is it just there for your entertainment, I do not get it. What is this? I mean the light is red and everybody just keeps going.”

What do you do with empty mineral water bottles?

If you know of other instructions, rules or laws that we generally do not follow, despite knowing fully well that they have been made for our own good, please share them with us.

Why do people not follow these instructions, rules and laws?

What should be done to ensure that all people follow these instructions, rules and laws?

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17 thoughts on “Does the red light mean STOP or not?

  1. Well, that is quite a question that you have asked us. Yes, while companies do print out the mandatory instructions on their products and their packaging, do they actually do enough to educate consumers about these instructions. I mean, have you ever seen any packaged drinking water company advertising that these bottles are for one time use only and should not be reused. No, and that I guess is part of the problem, What do you think?

    • Valid point, Jairam.
      Most manufacturers and service providers comply with statutory requirements in letter, not in spirit. Their focus is only on maximising topline and bottomline.
      In such a situation, we must take the trouble to educate ourselves (and others) about the products and services that we use. Further, we must put pressure on the manufacturers and service providers to provide as much relevant information as possible.

  2. Pro, you touched on two of my pet peeves here. Yep, I crush mineral water bottles after consuming the water – and enjoy doing it – quite like playing with bubble wrap.

    Helmets – aargh. Until Jan this year, when I had an accident, I drove a two wheeler. Never went without a helmet. Also carried an extra for pillion riders, which was usually my son. And a full face helmet, not the hard hat type.

    One thing I’ve thought of, to encourage people to wear a helmet is – perhaps two-wheeler showrooms could issue a helmet with each two-wheeler. And the traffic police should be strict, too. It makes my blood boil when they simply let the defaulter go after taking a bribe.

    When I lived in Hyderabad, I used to marvel that the absolute lack of road sense. I remember once showing the sign for a left turn with my hand and a guy just waved in response. 😀

    My latest pet peeve is garbage disposal. The posh car owners pack theirs and fling it out of the window to land on the roadside and drive off. *&$%##@s

    • Vidya, unfortunately, most people treat helmets as an unnecessary evil or as a joke. Giving free helmets won’t work. The solution is making people aware. I may be writing a post on this subject soon.

      The worst traffic sense I’d seen was in Ahmedabad about 20 years back. (I’m not sure how it is today.) 2-wheeler riders and auto-rickshaw drivers used to signal turns with their feet!

      I have noticed that many of us think that educational qualifications and/or wealth give us the right to make life miserable for others! *&$%##@s is correct!!

  3. And by the way, I have to confess that although I pride myself on reading the fine print in everything, I didn’t know about the mineral water bottle until the third bottle. I wish they’d print it big and prominent. Or at least issue a magnifying glass with each.

    • Our manufacturers and service providers are experts in ‘providing information’ without actually informing. The most important information is printed in very fine print and in very light colours. *&$%##@s again!

  4. One other thing that gets my goat is, people at signals slowly inching forward & blocking the zebra crossing. The funny / annoying part is that cops wave them forward instead of stopping them.

  5. I hate the word “peeve”.
    You crush plastic bottles.
    I deface labels of pickle and sauce bottles to prevent refill of adulterated stuff.
    When I walk in public parks I can’t stand litter and pick up every slip of paper or tetrapack pouch for dumping.

    • If I miss my walk any day, I get enquiries from the daily walkers the next day – “It appears you were absent yesterday, I saw a lot of uncleared/unpicked up litter!”

  6. I usually throw bottles away without crushing but I do crush them whenever I can remember. 🙂
    And yes, RED does not mean stop in India. It does not mean anything. We are all colour blind.

  7. You have company. My better half is another soul who religiously destroys every single water bottle and disposable plates/glasses/cups before throwing the same into trash. Honestly, I learnt to do so from him only. But there are many big and small instructions, rules and laws which are not followed by a big lot of people. For example, I have seen many people driving without their seat-belt till they spot a traffic policeman. Even after that, they’ll ensure to just hold the seat-belt to avoid the challan, not realizing how powerful a tool it is. My Dad survived a head-on collision with a DTC bus, only because he was wearing his seat-belt. He broke a few ribs, had some bruises, but he was saved…thanks to his habit of religiously wearing the seat-belt.

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  9. Someone giving instructions and people not following them is fine. What about those hypocrites who will not think twice before ridiculing people around on bad habits (Indians are this, Indians are that), but go ahead and do exactly the same thing themselves. Happened to meet one such nincompoop a few days back … always the first to comment on the untidiness of people around. But when I met him in a public place, he threw his cup of tea (the plastic one) right there on the road, and when I was looking for a dust bin to throw my cup, you can guess what he would have said 🙂

    And yes, red signal (as well as orange) means green. God save those who are the first in line while waiting for the signal to change from red to orange / green. There will always be a desperate soul forcing you to break the rule so that he / she can reach the destination faster.

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