I’m in Delhi to promote highway safety, thinking about Buckle Bob and sacred cows.

by Trevor C. Hale

Dalhi

Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife.” Baloo the Bear.

Traffic in New Delhi is a whirling dervish of cars, buses, tuk tuks, bikes and beggars. Deftly maneuvering and muscling for rank is a massive game of chicken where no one blinks or blinkers.

In what pass for rules of the road, there are no sacred cows…except for, well, the sacred cows. They meander or nap in the middle of four–lane roads carrying eight lanes of traffic. Cows are sacred to Hindus as they provide sustenance; therefore they roam freely and are revered.

I’m in Delhi to promote highway safety so these motorists and their safety are on my mind.

One of my first jobs in Birmingham was promoting highway safety. To reach kids we created a mascot named Buckle Bob, modeled after The Jungle Book’s Baloo (coincidentally Kipling placed the first site for The Jungle Book not far from Delhi). Buckle Bob was a good old boy with a giant red seat belt, more at home in the jungles of Jasper than India. He made his debut by skydiving into the Senior Bowl in Mobile, as statistically, that’s three times safer than driving.

When he jumped from the plane, the wind caught the giant mascot head and almost broke the skydiver’s neck. Snap!

Our public service campaign was called “Snap To It” and included the usual promotional tchotchkes of t-shirts, bumper stickers and coloring books. We also produced little plastic clickers, which were loud as all get out. They were little white boxes with a metal lever that, when pushed, gave a snap loud enough to startle even India’s most driven drivers.

Buckle Bob- "Snap to It"

Every Labor Day, Fourth of July and Memorial Day, the high–risk holidays, Buckle Bob toured the state like a rock star. We’d start north and work our way down. By the time we reached Mobile, the bear suit was as pungent as week-old Tandoori clams.

Like other celebs, he once had an on-camera wardrobe malfunction. In Mobile, the police had someone pulled over, so we stopped and suited up, camera rolling to capture the flashing-light drama in the background, as Buckle Bob gesticulated along the side of the highway.

We had lost the seat belt and the t-shirt.  So basically we were videotaping a guy in a bear suit prancing around the scene of a bust for no discernable reason.

Our ultimate destination on this trip was a Fourth of July event in downtown Mobile. We were toting Buckle Bob and heaps of clickers so we parked in a deck next to the event. Joining a steady stream of visitors walking through the deck, we started handing out the merchandise. The two duffel bags full of clickers made for slow going.

“OMG! Someone’s giving away something for free. Squeal! And it makes noise!! I must have one!”

The clickers moved faster than red curry. They were all gone before we left the parking deck.

We emerged among thousands in a beautiful open-air, bay-side arena. Fifty feet above, on the far rim sat the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. The wacky warm–up noises from the orchestra were hanging in the air… when we heard it.

Like a runaway freight train getting closer, or a swarm of angry locusts spreading ruthlessly throughout the crowd, the clickers were waging acoustic Jihad on America’s birthday party in Mobile. Snap!

The clicks, which started individually, evolved, as if driven by a hive mind, into a deafening cacophony of ear–splitting, obnoxious racket echoing out in the bay

The conductor watched helplessly, slack-jawed, as the marauding clickers hijacked all frequencies. He looked sucker–punched by a wall of sound, visibly shrinking, along with his baton, into a flaccid shell of his former self. Snap!

If the monstrous clicking was a hive, then Buckle Bob was the queen bee.

The retreat to the car was much faster without all the swag slowing us down.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Not sure if he would have approved of this particular change.

However, when asked by a journalist what he thought of Western Civilization, he famously quipped, “I think it would be a good idea.” Part of me thinks he would have been laughing along with us as we made a hasty, but safe retreat.

Snap!

Trevor C. Hale, a Cullman native, works and lives in Shanghai, and is quite possibly the worst driver in China. He can be reached at trevorcookhale@yahoo.com

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