Growing up, I was a seasoned bus hunter. I used to take pleasure in sprinting behind buses in Bangalore, chasing them across bus-stops or traffic signals and catching up with them. If a bus’s door was open, I would climb in even when it was in motion. If the door was closed I would knock on it, and in most cases, the bus driver would let me inside.
What kept me going was a couple of things – the adrenaline rush that each chase gave me and the unpredictable reward from doing this time after time, just like gambling does. And what enabled this behaviour that was dangerous to my own self and other motorists, was that the bus driver often colluded with me.
Here in Germany, when I am walking towards a bus stop, I would sometimes see a bus roll away and stop at a red light nearby. I do not try to run and catch this bus. In fact, my mind assumes that I never saw it. Instead, I walk up quietly to the bus stop and wait for the next one, because there isn’t one in a thousand chance that the bus driver would open the door to let me in at the traffic light. Also, if I knocked on the door, I would be confronted by 15 faces scoffing and scowling at me from the bus’s windows and an irate bus driver swearing in the soothing German tongue.
A system and the people that constitute it form a self-reinforcing feedback loop. People’s behaviour is governed by the system that surrounds them. The system itself is a synthesis of the people that comprise it. When the system makes a few exceptions to deviants, it stokes hope in the people it serves – hope that it would make them a concession and let them off the hook.
When the system makes no exceptions, there are no corners to cut. Just scoffs and scowls from disapproving onlookers.