Monday, January 16, 2012

Road rage

I am such a goofball. I finally learned how to drive a stick shift well enough to drive the little apple red mercedes that's been sitting outside the house gathering dust. So now I can drive myself to pick up T at school and don't need a taxi or driver.

I am, though, ahem, a little on edge still driving stick around maadi. Last Thursday while driving to get Thomas, the car behind me kept honking and urging me into busy intersections. There seems to be a honking rule in Egyptian driving that a car overtaking another car can do whatever it wants so long as it honks. Once there is a honk, the thinking seems to be that the first car is duty-bound to give way. Anyway, I wouldn't do what this driver wanted.

When we got to clear road I knew he would slither around me and gun it, so I slowed down. I also knew he'd give me an angry face or shake his hand at me as he passed. So I didn't look as his car approached but just held my hand to the window, middle finger in the air.

The next thing I knew he had squealed to a stop. A stringy young Egyptian guy got out with white headphones dangling from his ears. He was yelling and shaking his fist. I wasn't scared at all, but I was mad too. I started to get out but then an older man began shouting at the guy to forget it and keep going. A taxi pulled up next to me and both the passenger and driver shook their head at me to stay in the car.

So we kept driving. A little while later the same car passed me again and the driver shook his fist at me. That made me madder. I saw him stop at an intersection to make a right turn. As I passed, I gave him the finger again. In the rear view mirror I watched in astonishment as he pulled out of his turn and began chasing me at high speed. The street was two lanes and I was driving next to an old minibus going slowly. As I rarely top second gear, I, too, was going slowly. We stayed like this for a few seconds with the young guy fishtailing behind us trying to get through. Eventually, when he was behind the bus, I braked hard and he continued on. Instead of speeding off he swerved hard and stopped so he was blocking both lanes of traffic. I was really amazed, and also hoping that no other MBIS parents were around to see this. He was yelling at me and saying what's your country?!! Fuck your country! And I was yelling, not as loudly, what's your problem?!

The other cars were honking loudly in protest, so after a minute he got back in and continued on. I was boiling mad. I wished I knew a corrupt police officer so I could get the guy thrown in jail and tortured. I was still thinking this as I turned on the dirt road where Thomas school is and went to back into a parking place. To my surprise, that same guy appeared walking up the road. He stopped, as all Egyptians do when they see a foreigner attempting to park, and started guiding me backward into the parking place. I got out kind of laughing and said, well, now you've got me confused. Thanks for the help with the parking.

He looked at me and shook his head and said stubbornly, you are a woman, you should not go like this, and he repeated my gesture.

I said, you are as bad as me, you were honking at me and you said to fuck my country.

I only just honked twice.

Look, the only reason you even saw me do that is because you were going to make some gesture to me.

He kind of nodded and said, yes, but in my country, we don't have fights with women.

Ok then, I said.

Yeah, so, ok, no problem, I'm sorry. He said, giving up.

I said, no problem, I'm sorry, too.

Where you from? He said as he walked up the road.

I live here, Maadi. But I come from America.

Ah, America. I am sorry for your country. He looked at me sideways to see my reaction.

I shrugged. I'm sorry for my country too.

He made a small smile and shook his head a little. Ok, well, bye.

He started walking ahead and I realized the only thing left on the road was the British school. hey, I called, do you have a child at the school?

Yes, he said.

What year?

I don't know, it's my bosses child actually. I am the driver.

I thought about this. As we walked down the steps to the gate I said, you know, I don't mind, but you should be careful when you are driving for someone else. I might know your boss.

I know! He said, shaking his head at himself, And also now I am late to pick up his child!

Good luck, I said.

After I got Thomas, I saw the driver again with a few children walking back to the car. We walked back together and he explained that the children were having a sleepover.

Ok, well, bye.

have a nice day, he said.

drive safe, I said.

We saw each other again yesterday and greeted each other like old friends. The whole thing is so Egyptian from beginning to end.

and now here's some shots of new years day in Wadi Degla with Daddy.

Emmett is bowing after singing a song.

And of course, the best news is Clare is here!!!! but that deserves its own post:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Kath. said...

Laura, I really love your driver story. It seemed like it might have a happy ending but you led us there with the mischief of Jane Austen dusting off her suiters.
Thanks and a big welcome to Claire
who obviously cleared the way for some time for A
NEW POST, Yeah !

arthur and maggie said...

Wow, that was a great story. You should write it up for the Times magazine. Perhaps you know some people there? My favorite line,
" I wished I knew a corrupt police officer so I could get the guy thrown in jail and tortured."

Also, it brings to mind a certain garage attendant in New Haven...with a much happier ending!

J said...

A real car chase story

Sr. Prtnr. Kurz said...

Dear Laura - I'm very impressed with the outcome, although the process had me biting my nails.
In any event, the entire D&P family is very proud of your tenacity, if not your diplomacy. Perhaps this should be the first in a series of 'Memos from Cairo" that you could write for the NYTimes. Love to you and David and the boys.

Occhio said...

Hmmm. Are you familiar with the time Grandpa Peter kicked in the parking lot attendant's kiosk window?

A similar story self-righteous folly with a range of possible outcomes, of which the one that occurred was in the best 5%.

Best not to go back to that well again.



Marianna Houston said...

Dearest Laura-
You go girl-- impressive moxie. I loved the story and the writing . You brought me right into Cairo and into the boomerang of the social order towards women and also to one of those great moments in life Thst happen when you least expect it..
I would like to see you continue your writing under "Cairo Thru My Eyes " by Laura Bradford....from the pe respective of a smart, sassy woman-- what is it like navigating Cairo everyday-- what is it like being the wife of the top NYTimes journalist in Cairo-- what are the freedoms and what are the frustrations of being a sophisticated, savvy woman in Cairo....tell me stuff I don't know!
Your writing is wonderful.
Much love,

Jane said...

Like Maggie and Arthur, I have to say my absolutely favorite part is: "I was boiling mad. I wished I knew a corrupt police officer so I could get the guy thrown in jail and tortured." LOL. What an engaging, funny story!

Reminds me of the chapter about driving in Delhi in Tom Vanderbilt's book Traffic: "Good Brakes, Good Horn, Good Luck"

Anonymous said...

she's funny when she's mad
that's what I learned