Had I a magic wand, I’d use it to…

…change the behaviour of some people.

Let me start with the “green man” at the traffic junctions. I have nothing against the green man. But I do not like the way some pedestrians act when the green man lights up, making their way across the road slowly and casually as if they are strolling in the park.

It does not matter to them that they are causing a queue of cars to build up, waiting to turn. It does not worry them even though some of the drivers may be late for an appointment.

Can anything be done to get the pedestrians to cross faster? I guess not. It is their right to take their time as long as the green man remains green.

They know that very well. Why hurry? There is nothing the impatient drivers can do except to see red. After all, the law is in the pedestrians’ favour.

I’ve been caught in the situation many times as a passenger in the car. It seemed to happen whenever I was late for my class or rushing to an important appointment.

Had I a magic wand, I’d make all pedestrians walk quickly across when the green man lights up so that life can be better for the drivers and their passengers.

That’s not all. I’d use the wand to make all patrons of food centres and fast food outlets clear the table after they are done. Of course, I am aware there are cleaners to do the work. If patrons cleaned up after themselves, the cleaners would be out of jobs. In that sense, one might say, they are doing the cleaners a favour by leaving the place messy.

Nevertheless, I would like such patrons to see that they are making the cleaners’ job easier by helping to clear the table, or at least, by not spitting food on the table and leaving behind used phlegm-filled tissues.

I would also use the wand to change behaviour that results in criminal wastage. This can be seen at organised buffet dinners, during Chinese New Year spring-cleaning and at homes where cars are washed with water hoses.

Is it wrong for one to throw away leftovers? Is it wrong to discard things one doesn’t want even though they are still new? Is it wrong to use more water to clean cars while leaving the running water to rinse the drains? Of course . not.

After all, one is paying for it. But it would be nice if the wasted resources could be put to better use – for example, providing the poor with a sumptuous meal, furnishing an empty home for the needy or sponsoring the medical bills of the less fortunate.

With a wand, I would also like to change the habit of students who show off their studiousness at fast-food restaurants. The other patrons are more interested in getting a place to enjoy their food and drinks, than in admiring these students. But the students have an equal right to the seats and tables because they are patrons too . never mind if they have only bought one drink and take five hours to consume it. With a magic wand, I would make them observe a sign (which no one else can see) that says: “Drink here. Study somewhere else”.

As life would have it, I will never have a magic wand. Therefore, I don’t think I will ever see the changes I desire. As long as people have the right, I guess it is their prerogative to exercise it. Never mind if it may be to the dismay of others. Simply put, others just have to live with it.

(This journal entry was published in TODAY of 9 October 2006