Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ramadhan Kareem?

I love Ramadhan. Without a doubt, it's my absolute favorite month, bar none. I love breaking bad habits, Iftar with friends and family, the peace and quiet in the early evening, and the bleary early morning breakfasts. The thing I love the most though, is the fact that everyone is genuinely trying to put thier best, kindest and most charitable foot forward.

Ramadhan is the month when everyone smiles back at me on the streets and in the stores. When we all make an effort to be more genuine in our enqueries about the welfare of another's family. When we try to give more to charity, and to do charitable things for others without being asked, or thanked. This month gives me hope that maybe everything is going to be all right when the oil is gone, and that we are truly a nation of generous, kind, team players.

BUT (you knew there was a but) I have to avoid driving during Ramadhan. Because the way we drive during this month makes me think that we're all a bunch of fakes, and that our truest nature (Local and expatriate alike) is one of absolute self interest and greed. The concept of a fair and egalitarian society goes right out the window the moment we hop in the car and crank up the AC.

I've driven in both New York and Los Angeles, New York being the place I learned to use the word Jackass with appropriate authourity and inflection. But our behavior on the roads during Ramadhan makes New Yorkers look like a bunch of soccer mommies queing for tickets to Celine Dion concert.

Take for example the Ministries road toward Seeb at about 14:45. I spent 45 minutes patiently queing there yesterday while ministry employees drove up the emergency lane on the right to cut in, or drove up the road on the side of opposing traffic to cut in. The bahavior may have saved each of them some time, but it caused even greater delays because the 5 lanes they had created had to merge into two at the round about.

Last Year, I was queing near AL SArooj / Shatti. I was at the time, 9 months pregnant, in my Non-airconditioned Abu Shenab, decked out in a BLACK abaya. Some guy in a white jeep with a three digit number platecomes flying up the emergency vehicle lane on the right overtaking a mile of traffic, hoping to cut in at the front of the cue. Except I'm half way over, taking up both lanes. He blares his horn, shakes his fist, curses me in four languages. I get out of the truck, waddle over, and ask him if there is some emergency. He's late, he says. So am I, I inform him. So curses me some more. Not what I would call exemplary behavior, on either of our parts.

What I'm wondering is, does Ramadhan not count when you are inside your car? Has there been a ruling that good bahavior and generosity are to be forgotten during the commute? I'd love it if Sk Khalfan could address this issue during his drive time show.

Ladies, Gentlemen, what do you think?


Abdullah Ali said...

I think people feel safer in their cars that's why they don't hold back on what they feel. When being out and around people, they have to act civilized but nobody can catch them when they are in the car.

I don't know... that's my opinion.

Al Nims Media said...

If you are an expat, then god save you -- you get enough and more dirty stares on road during Ramadan (especially during 12pm – 4pm). Some locals think it is their right to act aggressive on road just because they are fasting. I do fast on many occasions, and it feels terrible with your glucose levels dipping, and a person getting irritated generally. But, doesn’t mean that I can take out my anger on poor souls on the roads.

PS: I am not generalizing.

Anonymous said...

i've given up on this ramadhan thing after seeing how people behave like a-holes on the road.

Sythe said...

Having driven in quite a few countries around the world. I have seen good drviers and bad drivers and feel confident enough to make a comment here...

The driving instructors here, for the mot part of what I've seen, are half of the root of the problem. They are not teaching their students to drive properly. I am continually shocked and amazed at these people. It's a rarity to actually see one of them use their indicators when driving!

As for people crashing in, and lane-hoggging - well, try that anywhere in the Western world and you would find yourself with a very big fine, and possibly a liscense suspension! It's an emergency lane people... for emergencies, and just because you're late for work because you didnt plan ahead and prepare for that, doesnt mean its an emergency. The person having a heart attack and calling for an ambulance, now thats an emmergency, but I guess that person is just out of luck, because someone was late for work and had to block the emergency lane....

It's obviously not a matter taken seriously by the authorities because if they did, they would police it and pull people over for doing such stupid stuff. And it's the cops who are the other half of the root of the problem.

I have also experienced a certain degree of arragance from other drivers - apparently the rules of the road are secondary to the kind of vehicle you are driving. If you're driving an expensive brand new (still with the plastic covers on - which I'm sorry but i just dont get - it's a driving hazaard) then apparently that gives you the right to cut people up, stop where you like, and of course the absolute neccessity for idiot-driving - chatting on your mobile phone whille you wander between or even stradle two lanes in your over-sized SUV.

Sorry for the rant, but after more than a handfull of brushes with death in the few months since I've been here, it's a little bit of a touchy subject with me!!!!!

For an example of how things should be done, feel free to take a look at the new laws just brought in to Ontario, Canada:


-Police can issue an immediate roadside seven-day license suspension and seven-day vehicle impoundment for street racing, participating in a driving contest or stunt driving

-The maximum fine increases from $1,000 to $10,000 upon conviction for street racing, making it the highest penalty in Canada. The minimum fine increases from $200 to $2,000.

-Courts can impose a driver's license suspension of up to 10 years for a second conviction, if the second conviction occurs within 10 years of the first conviction.

-The Act also bans driving a motor vehicle on a highway with a connected nitrous oxide system. Some street racers use nitrous oxide to enhance the acceleration capabilities of their vehicle.

-Those caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.05-0.08 can now face a minimum three-day suspension for a first offence, up to a 30-day suspension, remedial measures, and an ignition interlock for a third or subsequent offence.

-Anyone who interferes with a police officer's duties could face a fine from $200 to $5,000 or could have to serve up to six months in jail. In some cases, it can be both.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sythe - thank you for mentioning one of my least favorite local things - the tattered plastic seat covers that remain, months after the car is by any conceivable measure "new"! Why do people do that? It looks terrible, it must be incredibly uncomfortable, and, as you say, it must only add to the hazards of driving (especially when you see small children slipping around on the plastic-draped backseat).

I will never forget the expression on the face of the Omani Toyota staffer who - very reluctantly - helped me remove the Saran Wrap from my new car before I would drive it away from the lot - he clearly thought I was out of my mind...

Suburban said...

Good comments guys.
Al-Maawali- You've touched on something wrt feeling safer in your car. I think people think of thier cars as an extension of themselves, and of thier personal kingdom. THat's gotta be the reason you see so many prople doing rather personal things (nose picking, Pimple popping) while inside cars.

KC- Yeah, the poor little indian guys in motorcycles and in white echos really get the brunt of it. It strikes me as pretty unfair. Add it to the list of ways we are disgustingly racist here.

Sythe- Right on.

Ignaby- THe plastic seat covers crack me up. I will spend the rest of my life wondering why people leave the plastic on the seats. The really weird thing is that we live in such a hot country, any trip in the car would lead to a chronic case of "sticky butt" "clingy dishdasha" from the sweat. Ick...

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