Island View: Butting in Phuket traffic; patience practice

The following opinion piece, conducted by the Siamerican, was initially published in the Phuket Gazette newspaper’s Feb 11-17, 2012 edition.

QUEUEING up to make a turn at a major traffic junction during Phuket rush hour is a good opportunity to practice patience. On the way to the office, I’ve come to recall nearly-forgotten days from my childhood.

Thanks to Phuket’s traffic, one particular term from my school days has been reborn: butting. “Butting” referred to the act of cutting or skipping in line, or as someone from Europe might know it “queue jumping”, and in Thai, “sang queue”. Rewind back to my elementary school in Colorado, USA.

After recess, lining up with 30 classmates to take turns rehydrating from a single water fountain required patience. There was always one impatient kid who would butt in to line every time the teacher wasn’t looking.

Usually, other students were keen to tell the teacher, which ensured the student would be sent to the back of the line. Fast forward to the present day.

I’m in my car patiently queuing up at the Bang Koo intersection, just outside Phuket Town. It’s a lot like lining up for a drink of water at school decades ago.

Only now, instead of kids queue jumping, impatient drivers are butting lanes. Every morning I’ve observed at least two drivers for every 10 cars lining up to turn, who drive to the front of the lane and casually butt in.

These people completely ignore the lane markers and only occasionally do they give the courtesy of turning on their turn signal before cutting in. As much as I wish I could blow the whistle on them, I’ve reluctantly accepted that there is no authority figure to take charge and put a stop to the nonsense.

Perhaps some do have a valid reason for sang queuing. What if a loved one of theirs was hospitalized, or they are running late for a meeting critical to their livelihood? Rather than getting worked up, I am better off accepting that this is part of Phuket, and continuing to work on harnessing the challenging art of being patient.