Unrelated musings on risk management

Just remembered something totally irrelevant to GS, but very useful otherwise. I already mentioned in the last post the guy I met at my friend's 50th birthday, the psychiatrist that sails solo from the UK to Australia. His name is Frank (I have no idea what his last name is though), and he was (still is) my friend's professional tutor.

At the age of seventy four Frank regularly commutes to work on a motorcycle. He is not a novice and has been riding a bike for a long time. I, on the other hand, got bitten by this bug only a few years ago and am an example of a midlife crisis. Well, midlife... I am fifty one now, am I hoping to live until one hundred and two? That's unlikely. They should stop calling it midlife crisis then. In any case, in men this midlife crisis starts when we turn eighteen and never ends, according to the professional opinion of my psychiatrist friend.

When I spoke to Frank my riding experience was only a few months, and I asked him a few questions about it. Most notably: how to avoid getting killed. When you ask these kind of guys - remarkable - questions you hope for an interesting answer. Frank did not disappoint and gave me the thought that I have been using with my trainees ever since. His answer was: "Ride as everybody around you is a moron and has no idea about traffic rules".

Motorcyclists are vulnerable. Every time I get on mine this feeling of being totally exposed dawns on me. Sometimes I feel the urge to reach for the seatbelt. Because of this vulnerability you have to pay total attention to the process of riding. There is no point of arguing who is at fault when a car doesn't give way: you're the one who's gonna be hurting. So you watch out for those small streets, spot parked cars that are about to stick out their noses in your path of riding, guess which car is going to jump into your lane and so on. And yeah, people make mistakes. Motorcycles are not very visible on the road, and people make mistakes. I make them on regular basis. There is a term for this, SMIDSY: Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You!

What you have to do eventually is to take responsibility for everybody else. You pretend they don't know the rules. You watch them, read their behavior and predict their moves. You also position yourself in such a way on the road that these guys are not close enough to you to do harm. For instance, you never ride on a highway next to a car: you're likely to be in its blind spot, and when the driver decides that there is a gap to jump into and does not notice you - you get hurt. So you either stay slightly behind this car or ahead, so that he can see you. You make yourself noticeable by moving from lane to lane, or weave inside your lane from time to time. When you brake you watch the mirrors to make sure the driver behind you is slowing down too. And so on.

I though it was a good advise. Then I though some more and realized that this advise can be extended to everything else in life. In short it means to take more responsibility. Don't take things at face value and don't expect everyone to know the rules. Before jumping at the pedestrian crossing, why not check if the driver of the approaching has actually noticed you and is slowing down. When you get investment advise, why not do a bit of homework and spend some time at research. Instead of complaining about your financial adviser when the investment goes belly up. Read the small print in the contract; it can take an hour to get through the legalese, but may save you a lot of stress later.

Another, probably less politically correct, but very important example: the slutwalks. In 2011 during the talk addressing campus rape at York University constable Sanguinetti of Toronto blurted something along the lines of "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized". As expected, this caused a storm. Before women start throwing rotten tomatoes at me let me say this. Of course, obviously, without a doubt I agree, that the way the woman dresses or behaves does not give anybody the right to rape her. There is no justification for sexual crime. I have two daughters and I sympathize with women who have been sexually assaulted. But... If I go walking to downtown Johannesburg wearing a thick golden chain, flashy golden watch and a few rings, what's going to happen within twenty minutes? I have every right to do that and nobody has the right of robbing me. But every reasonable person would say: what were you thinking! Get my drift?

You can stick to the rules and then play the victim for the rest of your life. Or you can think a little and decide where to go and how to dress. That's true, nobody has the right to assault a girl who turns up in the military barracks full of horny and physically strong young guys dressed in a very short dress with the deep cleavage... Hey, this is your right. But maybe if you think about the consequences, totally unjustified as they are, maybe comparing potential - albeit unfair - risk is not worth the benefit. It is simple risk management. Which, in turn, implies taking some responsibility for the actions of others.

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