The word convoy conjures up romantic images of a column of dusty brown trucks, led by Gregory Peck, blazing through the desert in a desperate attempt to deliver much needed supplies to beleaguered Allied troops in Tobruk. They get strafed by the Luftwaffe, fight off numerous assaults by German storm-troopers and continually evade a Panzer division hell bent on causing them grievous hurt. But in the end, they arrive at their destination just in the nick of time to save the day (and David Niven’s ass).
Mention convoy again and I‘ll think of a pack of destroyers cutting through the wicked waves of the Pacific ocean on their way to rescue a crippled aircraft carrier besieged by the entire Japanese Imperial Navy. The convoy, this time led by Henry Fonda, survives the relentless torpedo attacks of homicidal Japanese submarine commanders, miraculously swats every kamikaze Daichi Val dive-bomber out of the sky and even overcomes a half-assed mutiny attempt. They arrive (again just in the nick of time) to sink the Yamato and escort Cary Grant’s crippled aircraft carrier into the safety of the sunset – and back to Pearl Harbour.
However, the reality of convoys, here in Malaysia, is somewhat less endearing. Mention the word convoy in the Malaysian context and I will form a mental picture of seriously attention starved people: people who, in all likelihood, admire their vehicles just a bit too much and who will find any excuse to parade their cars (or motorcycles as the case may be) as an ego-stroking collective unit through the nation’s streets.
Let’s take the car-owners first. A convoy is an excuse for them to drive their event sticker laden cars in single-file, usually above the national speed limit, with their hazard lights flashing. Never mind that it disrupts traffic: other road-users do not figure much in their scheme of things. The important thing is that they have managed to get the police to do their bidding and wave them past red lights and other nuisances that ordinary road-users have to contend with.
And what is all this in aid of? You guessed it, folks! To correct the attention imbalance: the attention they crave (but can never get) as individuals. But in a convoy, their all wishes come true.
Now let’s talk about the motorcyclists. It’s the same story isn’t it? It doesn’t matter whether they own kapchais or custom-made 1,800cc monsters. With the exception of a very cool few, they all want to ‘convoy’. I would understand – if I gave it any thought – the kapchai crowd. I mean, they get bullied by other road-users on a daily basis. Thus ‘convoy-ing’ gives them a shot at earning some respect.
But what gives with the folks who own the big-capacity, high-performance, mega-ringgit bikes? Why do they ‘convoy’? I find it hard to believe that these folks are that insecure. Or are they? I mean, aren’t bikes the epitome of freedom and individuality in the first place?
Motorcycles are the chosen machines of the rugged, lone-wolf, I-don’t-need-anyone types. This is the mystique behind bikes. True blue bikers ride alone (or in pairs at most), don’t they? But when you have to seek comfort in numbers, can you still call yourself a biker and keep a straight face? But then again, if its attention you’re after, I guess a convoy is the best way to go about it. After all, why bring in the real mystique, lore and romance of motorcycling into the equation? These things have nothing to do with attention-seeking, right?
In my book, unless you are trying to rush off medical supplies, food or blankets to the victims of Gaza (or are engaged other equally noble endeavours), convoys are little more than a joke.
They are good attention-seeking stunts, though.