South African society is a completely lawless society. Pretty much everyone does just what they like and more often than not they get away with it. Red lights are just a suggestion, yet it is not uncommon to see a taxi stop in the middle of the road without warning. This attitude goes through almost all levels.
Yet there are some laws that people do obey. The law of gravity comes to mind. Mostly if you trip or fall off a wall or out a window you do approach the earth with increasing velocity and finally come to rest in some form of disrepair when you finally meet said earth, even if you are South African. Another law that is obeyed was well illustrated by a patient we once saw in the old days.
The patient came in in a bad way. All sorts of bones were broken. Most of his ribs were also fractured in numerous places, causing areas of his chest wall to move paradoxically with each breath (so called flail chest). His abdominal wall had burst and all his guts were hanging out. His left hemidiaphragm had also ruptured. Suffice to say he was not having a good day. Neither were we.
We got to work and with quite a bit of effort and no small number of hours we got him through theater and delivered him to ICU. Only after all the excitement had dissipated did we get to hear the circumstances surrounding his injuries.
As it turns out our patient had some form of confrontation on the road with a truck driver. This resulted in the two of them racing each other and cutting each other off, all the while hooting wildly and raising the middle finger in salutation at each other. As time went by tempers frayed. Finally our patient decided on an ill advised course of action.
Now my understanding of the law of momentum is two-fold. Firstly momentum is mass times velocity. This basically means the object with the larger mass and greater velocity is going to maintain its course of motion more easily than a smaller stationary object. Secondly momentum is one of the laws that even us South Africans are subject to.
So when our patient raced ahead in his car, stopped on the side of the road and got out of his car to stand in the middle of the road to stop the oncoming speeding truck with nothing more than his outstretched hand, maybe he hadn’t thought it through too well.
*This blog post was originally published at other things amanzi*