Sunday, May 13, 2012

Doha Driving

I'm not sure but I might have noticed a sure sign of cultural assimilation today in Brett, and by "cultural assimilation" I mean not in a good way in this case.  We were driving to VCUQatar in Education City today to drop Brett off at work.  There is a section of road there, parallel to the LAS Building, that has a large median in the middle and two lanes for each direction on each side of the median.  As we were headed toward VCUQ I noticed a Land Cruiser coming toward us in the inside lane of the one way road.  I said, "Oh no!"  Even though Brett was paying attention and looking right at the other car, his only reply was, "What's the matter?"  When I pointed out that there was a car passing us on the left going the wrong direction, he just said, "Oh, yeah, they do that all the time."  There was no surprise, no shock in his voice at all.  I was kind of panicked for the other drivers behind us and wondered what this guy was going to do when he got to the roundabout we had just come through.

The LAS Building - the median is this wide section in the foreground with the sand and the grasses

Now this cultural assimilation of Brett's is not complete, yet, because he hasn't driven the wrong way on a one way road, but I thought it was pretty telling that he wasn't phased at all by the Qatari driving next to us going the wrong way.  Maybe this is a sign that we have been in this country too long.  Maybe it is a positive coping mechanism on Brett's part that I just haven't acquired yet.  He was feeling very calm while I was definitely worried about the situation.  It quickly became laughable and I was able to shrug my shoulders in resignation. I guess I have come a long way, but I might worry if I join Brett's complacency club and not even notice the traffic travesties in Qatar.

Even as I was laughing to myself about the unpredictable craziness of driving here though we passed a car with two little, pudgy baby hands on the steering wheel.  I did a triple take and saw the sweetest little curly headed, dark eyed baby standing in her daddy's lap, looking like she was in complete control of the car.  Now maybe the dad's hands were on the bottom part of the steering wheel where I couldn't see, but oh, my head wanted to explode with righteous rage.  Not only was this little sweetheart NOT in a car seat, she was on the driver's lap pretending to drive.

Right after we moved to Qatar I was with my friend Cydney while she was driving.  We were at a standstill in traffic and noticed that the children in the car next to us were flailing all over the two back seats and hanging out the windows while the adults were oblivious in the front seat.  Cydney, in her perfectly tactful way, caught the eyes of one of the children hanging out the window (they were all staring at the two blonde ladies next to them so it was easy to do) and lifted her shoulder strap of the seat belt and hand up in question.  The child quickly pushed her whole hand facing toward us across her body in dismissal and then we saw a maid pull her inside the car.  Arabic, Indian, African, and Filipino children are not restrained in the car in the Middle East for the most part.  I guess it is not my place to judge the habits of other cultures, but why is there so much disregard for traffic laws and safety in the Middle East?  I hope I don't have to stay here until I figure out the answer to this question.  Until then I will keep chuckling at the flagrant law breakers, keep my eyes on the road, plan ahead for being cut-off, and wave at, but pray for, the staring children as they bounce down the street in unrestrained revelry.

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