Crossing the line

I wanted to take a photo of the traffic this morning but I didn’t have my camera. I was coming across the district 5 bridge at 7:30am back into the city, and at the Tran Hung Dao intersection… there was just a sea of motorbike helmets. In a two lane wide space, there must have been… 20 bikes abreast. There was barely 20 cm between each helmet.

It’s not really dangerous though. The traffic moves very smoothly. You never sit at the lights for more than 40 seconds, and when you need to turn across a lane of traffic, you just pick a polite point where there is a small distance between vehicles (though never in front of a car, as they will NOT stop for you) and you cross slowly and carefully and people see you and the first person will turn slightly to go around you and everyone else will follow, and thus the sea of bikes parts smoothly to let you through. You don’t need traffic signals in Vietnam to tell you when to cross across an intersection. You just need some common courtesy and a strong desire to not get into an accident and have an angry Vietnamese person screaming at you. (I have this desire quite strongly)

But there’s this awesome little scene i see every morning that makes me chuckle. At one of the busy intersections i have to go through to take Yi to work, on the corner of Tran Hung Dao and Nguyen Thai Hoc, they have traffic conductors in addition to the lights to make sure noone does anything TOO crazy. The conductors are the more senior cops; the grumpy, orange-shirted traffic control guys.

But there’s always one young kid in a different, freshly pressed, dark (but not too dark like the REAL police) green uniform. He’s like a junior or trainee traffic cop.

And his job.. is to stop everyone from crossing the line with their front tyre. He’s like 22… but SUPER officious looking and takes his job very seriously despite having the most dorky glasses you’ve seen outside of The Big Bang Theory. But everyone pulls up at that intersection and the ONLY time they ever stop before the line is when this guy is around.

And when everyone’s stopped… he walks to the middle of the road and back, GLARING at everyone’s tyres and waving a small red flag at the ground near their tyres as if to say “Don’t you even THINK about crossing that line or i’ll wave my flag at you LOTS and THEN you’ll be sorry”.

He strides along, glaring at the line of tyres like they’re his mortal enemy, until he gets the end, which is the only place you’re allowed to be over the line, because those people are turning. But he glares at them too and makes sure they have a turning signal on.

Otherwise he yells at them something which I imagine is “DU ME !!! GET BEHIND THE MOTHERFUCKING LINE BEFORE I WAVE MY FLAG AT YOU !”

I don’t know what happens if you cross the line and he waves his flag at you in anger. I’ve never seen it happen before. But the way people respect his authoritae… i expect the consequences are quite horrible.

He probably stabs you in the face with the stick repeatedly whilst screaming “YOU CROSS THE LINE !!! I KILL YOU !” Perhaps that’s why the flag is red… red with the blood of motorists who “crossed the line”.

I never cross the line when this guy is around. Noone else is game to do it, so I’m sure as hell not going to be the first.

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