Colombo by Night


Continuing on our night drive through Colombo, we have to keep an eye out for another threat: drunks. The ones on foot tend to be slower and are easier to avoid. Unless you are flooring it when one staggers onto the road. For those behind the wheel the deadliest drunks are the ones speeding between clubs in high powered chariots. Another spin of the roulette wheel might yield a three wheeler shooting out of a side street. Or an erratic motorcycle. The list is endless as the stories. Most so unbelievable to be a product of the imagination. I won’t mangle them with half baked recollections. If your got a hair raising night time encounter let’s hear it. The statistics in this article about the Uniflow/detections of drunk driving issue are quite interesting.

To counter deadly drunk idiots, the police have bravely put out alcohol checks points. I say bravely because a chunk of the culprits are the offspring of politically organised crime figures or worse brats of politicians (yes I am hair splitting to differentiate the two). An altercation with such thugs risks getting a constable’s career prospects severely bruised. Particularly with an uncomfortable posting to a combat area.

Alcohol checks in Colombo start off low tech. The occur only if the driver is a male. A constable leans in to take a sniff of the driver’s breadth. If there’s a suspicion of a whiff of booze its on to the breathalyser test. These are quite an expense for the Police – only a fine from a conviction can come close to covering the cost. I’ve heard of cases where some people were told to blow continuously into the testing device. Which amplifies the slightest traces of alcohol to convictable levels. There’s a similar tale on the web. Corruption? Faulty technology? Poor training? A lying drunk driver? You decide.

I am immune to this danger because I don’t drink and drive. I have the window down and lean out to innocently inquire what the fuss is about. Doing so indicates that I don’t have any liquor breadth to hide. I picked this tip from a friend who regularly drives home tipsy from his bouts of clubbing. Apparently it helped him escape every time. There are others who get their even more intoxicated girl friends to drive. I haven’t heard of them killing anybody. Yet. I doubt if anyone would want to be their first victim.

In my courting days, I would drive home from Mrs C’s place after 10pm. Around this time the “regular” checkpoints in Colombo stop every vehicle on the road. Its the only time of the day such a thing is possible without grinding the city to a halt. Maybe this time frame is popular with LTTE terrorist operatives to haul explosives about. Even terrorists might not like sitting in traffic.

A surprising number of the drivers pulled over are smart young things. Decked out in clubbing finery. The boys in peacock like haircuts. I slide through of such check points in seconds since I have a system that I blogged about long ago. The kids seem to get stuck longer. Some are argumentative which is the dumbest thing to do at a police checkpoint nearing midnight. In any country – third world or otherwise.

As I pull away, I go back to keeping an eye out for a deadlier animal of the Colombo night. The speeding children of powerful politicians. Now symbolized with a certain name and face. They usually have a squad of body guards in an SUV. If they bump into you (day or night) don’t expect a civilised exchange of insurance details. Street barriers and security check points may have dampened their style a bit. But there are those who can close down streets if they need to race.

Best quietly sip my EGB and not comment further. Divulging specifics of eavesdropped conversations to the right ears is a powerful tool (if you get the timing right). Or a dangerous game (if you miscalculate). Not something to dabble in unless you are deluded into thinking you know what you are doing.

Night driving in Colombo is risky enough for me. There’s an even more white knuckled module in the video game of driving in Sri Lanka. Its called the late night airport run. Can be quite thrilling if played in moderation. It requires separate post. This one was long enough.

Thank you for reading this far. The weekend is almost upon us. Safe driving.

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7 thoughts on “Colombo by Night

  1. Aaah, the late night airport run is probably my least favourite journey in SL. It means I’m leaving after being there, after having a complete day there too.

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  2. RD: On an emotional level I bet its not the best ride in the country 😐 On the way back after a late night drop its even hairier – specially without the weight of the bags in the chariot.

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