Sunday, September 10, 2006

It was like watching a car crash

Except, I missed the actual crash. On the way home tonight, I saw the aftermath of another accident on the roads of Dubai, which involved an ambulance and a couple of cars just off a roundabout on the Al Khail Road (which is supposed to be safer than the Sheik Zayed Road), one of which was on its roof. Cars were slowing right down for a good ghoulish gawp, and there were no police anywhere to be seen. No lanes were closed off at all. It was the same with a lorry that had over-turned, again on a roundabout on the AK road, that I saw the other day. No wonder people drive like they do here. You hardly see any police on the road, so the chances of enforcing the rules (which aren't that great, it is not actually illegal to tailgate here) are both slim and fat at the same time. The driving here would make even Jeremy Clarkson cringe, I'm sure.

Strange thing, that. Slim chance and fat chance both mean pretty much the same thing....

Anyway, I found myself actually looking forward to going to work today. Crazy shit, I know. The particular job I'm working on is a huge one in Qatar, but it's made more interesting by the fact that the project has gone totally tits-up. The meetings don't send me to sleep for a change, they actually grab my attention. It helps that there are about 10 different nationalities around the table. I really have to pay attention to what people are saying, and sit in wonder as a Scotsman talks to a Yemeni, and then a Frenchman interjects, before a Scouser starts telling everyone to simmer down. I admit I came here with something of a preconception about the Arabs and the way they do business, but the ones I've dealt with so far are cool customers, who don't mind having a bit of banter with you. I thought they'd be aloof and business-like to a T. I do wish they wouldn't break into Arabic now and again, though. It's like they're talking about you. "Did you hear what that fat English dick-head just said?" "Yeah! Idiot. I can't believe we're paying for these freaks!"

Ah, such is life, and soon the weather will get better, or so we have been told, and we can get out of the buildings and get some fresh dust, I mean air. But this morning, I woke to an alarming sight: overcast skies. I thought I'd dreamt the last 5 weeks and was back in blighty. I drove to work in a misty, sunless void, surrounded by petrified locals with their hazard lights flashing. What's that all about? If anything out of the ordinary happens, the hazards go on. And when the hazards go on, the driver is suddenly exempt from all rules of the road, and becomes invisible and impervious to all external influences. This is especially the case when they double park and block everyone else behind them. I'm not really here! I can do anything I want!

And so, we've come full circle, at full speed around this roundabout to driving in the UAE. It's like a fairground, I tell thee....

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