The other day I got stuck in rush hour in Nice, and everybody who travels regularly with their car to work and back knows how boring it is to be stuck in traffic like this. Let me say at once that for me this is not an everyday event, it happens only from time to time. Anyway, sitting there in the car, moving with the speed of a land turtle and looking to all the cars I thought that even if this is not something very pleasant, at least the rush hour is an indication that people are free to move wherever they want and at any time. They are fortunate to have a job and a car, to have access to all roads, to have access to fuel. Traffic is not jammed due to road blocks or mines along the road. We’re not queuing up waiting to show our papers and have our cars searched, with the risk of being held back for hours due to the bad mood of a soldier. Or worse, we could risk being harassed, abused, and refused to continue.
It so easy to get irritated when stuck in traffic like this. I mean, I certainly have better things to do. The same I often think when I have to wait “for ages” in the line at the cashier at the supermarket. But again, I should rather think about how fortunate I am who can go to a huge supermarket and buy whatever I want and still some more. There’s no shortage of anything, everybody can buy what they need and want (in the sense there are no rations to think about. The economical aspect of buying whatever people want is another topic).
Every so often I find myself waiting in the waiting area of my son’s paediatrician. And that’s yet another story about waiting. Everybody knows that doctors are always late on their schedule, and maybe ours are no worse than the rest, but at times we wait for almost two hours after scheduled appointment. I have to admit I get upset sometimes, as this is really not the fun place to spend the day. But we have access to a paediatrician, who has a nice and clean office (and a clean and big waiting area, even if it’s rather dull), he takes good care of my son and takes his time with the kids (which is probably the cause of the delays). If my son is ill he prescribes medication, and I can go to the pharmacy and get it straight away. There’s no shortage of anything. So what am I complaining about? In other parts of the world people walk for days to get to a hospital or a rural Clinique, and usually a poorly facilitated one that will be. If people have to seek the Clinique during an epidemic or disaster sometimes they have to wait a day or two to see the doctor! No medicines available, or when they are often at a high cost. If the patient is severely ill there might be a long way to travel to a better facilitated hospital. A travel that will often be done on foot, on a donkey- or bull chart, or if lucky, in an old car on a bumpy and dusty road. I even know of cholera patients who has been too weak to walk that they family has brought them in to the Clinique in a wheel barrel! In the western world we call for an ambulance if the patient is too weak or ill to be taken by car. The contrast is somewhat grotesque.
When being in Europe for longer periods of time I sometimes have to remind myself of all this; that I am among the most fortunate people on this planet. I can move wherever I want whenever I want, I lack nothing, in fact I have more than I need of material things. I go to sleep in a warm bed at night; I can have a warm shower any time during the day. I can go to the market without fearing bombs and snipers, I can walk everywhere outside the road without fearing mines. If I get sick I go to the doctor or the hospital and I get treated. When giving birth to my child I do so in a safe environment with skilled personnel present and I can even have anaesthetics if I want.
I realize that I have to remind myself more often that what I take for granted is for others a dream or a luxury. I have no reason to complain about anything. I should be immensely grateful for living in Europe.