Lurking dangers may be as microscopic as a virus; as fast as a car hurtling at more than 30 metres per second; or as menacing as a person high on drugs.
Those who live in or regularly pass by rough neighbourhoods often encounter challenging or dangerous situations. They learn 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 sit, stand and walk confidently to show they are no easy prey so as to ward off predators. They stay alert and is aware of the hazards and people nearby, and those observing from a distance.
Many people are addicted to smartphones without their realising. It may be harmless to check for messages first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But once out on the streets or in public spaces, it is a different ballgame altogether, as danger lurks 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. They could be hit by a reversing vehicle or fall victim to a snatch thief. 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 another while holding up traffic.
Some could be texting, reading messages or forwarding videos, while others watch videos on their smartphones or tablets mounted on the dashboard. Cars with the 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 shoot at 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. Those who want to be dead right will surely end up dead for just wanting to be right and will be remembered by others as not so smart after all.
In a dangerous situation, it is better to flee than to challenge, as others may not reason logically, bearing in mind that 29 percent of Malaysians had depression and anxiety disorder compared with 12 percent 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 percent 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 situation.
Moreover, those who plan to rob, or steal are prepared to hurt victims to get what they want. Some do not even bother to voice their demand but would slash first and ask later, attacking more if the victim does not appear to respond or cooperate.
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 it at the window glass, shattering it to pieces. Inexplicably, the car remained as it was.
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 crouching. Do not expect bystanders to come rushing to your rescue as they did not witness what happened and are not sure what is 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.
But sadly, too many people are not streetwise. All too often, they 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 misery.
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; or as menacing as a person high on drugs.
The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan from Petaling Jaya.