Sunday, June 10, 2012

Things to miss about Egypt: Driving with no rules

When I first arrived in Egypt I thought any foreigner would be crazy to drive here.  I was shocked when I found out our demure, 60-something, pearls/heels/suit wearing, "plantation" principal actually had a car and did indeed drive.  As I learned my walking routes and how to cross the street, I began to understand that both foreigners AND Egyptians driving here would actually have to be just a little bit crazy.  I knew I would never do it.  I was far too cautious for that!

And then the next 2 years happened.  I traveled by myself, grew up, learned to live in another country, and became a real "grownup".  And then I became a crazy grown up.  In all fairness, I was driven crazy by having to ride a school bus each day with a group of my closest 20 colleagues (and even their ever endearing children), often a/c that wasn't sufficient for the temperatures outside, feeling like I might vomit at any moment... But let me stop here.  There's a whole entry about the bus coming up.

So crazy new me and also crazy Emily decided to team up with a few of our friends and rent a car this year.  The first time I drove I was terrified.  I was timid.  I was pale-faced, gripping the steering wheel with all I had in me while attempting to u-turn and merge onto the busy highway in the morning rush hour traffic.  And let me tell you-- American people, you don't know the kind of merge I'm talking about.  I can't describe it.  It is a merge into chaos, and a merge without rules or order.  Over the next few months I braved the roads and the traffic, first in a manual, and then (THANK HEAVENS for my poor clutch foot!) in an automatic.  I learned the 'rules' of the road.  There may be no written rules, but there certainly are 'rules'.  Though there are no lanes, there actually are.  If it is a 4 lane highway, it is actually 9 lanes- the 4 plus 5 more for one on each side of the lane.  Driving within an inch of another car is acceptable.  In fact, if you're scared to do it you'll probably get honked at.  I have driven down the wrong side of the road not once, not twice, but every single day on the way home from school.  In fact, I have given dirty looks and gestures to people coming the correct way down the road at me too quickly.  I have learned to drive with no speed limit.  The only speed limit is the one set by the amount of traffic.  I have learned how to slap on the hazard lights in 0.002 seconds when the cars in front of me are slowing.  I have learned to use the horn without fear, sometimes just to warn people of my arrival.  I have avoided people, other cars, and debris on the road.  I have braved speed bumps that might as well be called speed mountains.  I have parallel parked on the wrong side of the road in a space big enough to fit a child's Little Tykes car.    I have been in a near accident involving a car bouncing off the cement divider of the highway and spinning out of control toward my car.  I have learned my favorite lane is the one 2nd from the left.  That way I can get around people to the left or the right, but avoid exiting/oncoming traffic, gas lines, people standing on the side of the road, and the carts/humans selling treats/cowboy hats/tissues/flags/flowers, etc, etc, etc.

I'll miss driving in Egypt.  I'll miss no rules.  I'll miss no fear of being stopped by the police.  I'll miss the crazy and the chaos.  But have no fear Houston, I'm bringing my new skills back with me.  Traffic?  No problem.  My brain is trained in this puzzle.  I will get there, and faster than you. ;)

If you want an idea of a taxi ride in Cairo, here's a little clip I found on You Tube:


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1 comment:

Tara G. said...

It's the zipper merge and Egypt's is way crazier than Ukraine's! I won't drive here- Honda minivan with three chattering kids says it all!!!!