Tag Archives: driving

“Going Native”

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A friend in Dubai used the phrase “going native” with me as we were driving around….. see, the apparent custom here is that if you’re sitting behind another car in traffic at a traffic light and it turns green, the first one to honk wins. Apparently. So, as the light in front of us turned green, I said “honk”. She cracked up and said “so you’ve been here long enough to be going all native on us, huh?” Made me laugh.

Driving in Dubai has a bit of an aggressive edge to it. Not assertive….drivers are waaaaay past that. It’s aggressive. If you don’t push out into a traffic circle when the lane’s almost clear, you’ll suffer the horn-honking wrath of the drivers behind you. Now, TBG, who is normally one of the most rational, calm and reasonable drivers that you’ll ever meet, showed me a most surprising side of his driving ability…… TBG “went native!”

I was navigating. Normally, not an issue…. But I’d missed an exit a week or so before because it looked like a construction site entrance, and we ended up having to drive about an additional 30 minutes because I’d missed it. So this time, that exit that looked like a construction entrance wasn’t gonna fool me….. right off a 7-lane expressway…… uh yeah, I was certain it was our exit.

*sigh* It wasn’t. TBG didn’t fuss, he just started looking around to figure out how to get us out of this construction area….. found a bit of a road in the right direction and headed out. But the road was getting narrower and narrower and narrower…… and was now separated from the main highway, but adjacent, but now… it… ended. Sand. No pavement. Hmmm…. We’re less than 20’ from the shoulder of the road we shoulda been on with only flat fairly smooth sand between us and it… you guessed it, there he went! Crazy, but he got us there!

A bit later, some big FJ was trying to crowd us out of our lane, kept easing over and easing over…. Normally, they’d have had that spot, no problem. But we needed to move over a couple lanes and exit pretty quick, so no joy for him! Honking and flashing did that driver no good, TBG wasn’t moving to the left to let him around on the right, as we needed to exit. So the FJ ended up somewhere a few cars behind us, TBG did a “Dubai Slide” over a couple two or three lanes, and we made our exit. Ba-da-bing!

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On the way to eat supper and then to the grocery, our four lanes quickly change to three with no signs or indications…. The road just has no stripes any longer, leaving drivers to attempt to sort out what’s happening till the stripes resume… but with only three lanes now. Oddly, there were three cabs in the lanes adjacent to us, and they tend to drive with some serious abandon here…. But when the dust settled and the stripes reappeared, those cabs were behind TBG, cause our supper stop was just ahead! I think I noticed one of the cabbies grumbling to himself.

As always, there’s someone that doesn’t want to wait in the line of traffic, their business is ever so much more important than yours. They’ll drive along the shoulder, or in a turn lane, or in the lane where cars park, or a fire lane, or a merging lane until it’s no longer possible to go, and they expect someone to let them in. And if there’s more than a 2 cm gap (about an inch) between you and the car in front of you, they’ll attempt to wedge themselves right in there. That “someone” wasn’t gonna be TBG that day.

Parking garages tend to be a huge free-for-all. Really. Parking spaces in Dubai are insanely hard to come by sometimes, and when people think they’ve seen someone heading towards their car, they’ll come to a dead stop and wait. And wait. And honk. And wait. Parking garages are insanely loud places, the honking echoes many times. Crazy. Normally, we’ll just pull out around the waiting car and drive on, there’s likely another spot somewhere.

This parking garage had the red/green lights over each parking space to indicate occupied or open. If you’re looking down a quarter-mile of parked cars, those little lights REALLY help! TBG saw a green one and headed down the aisle….. sadly, against the arrows. Going the wrong way.   Unlike others, he didn’t stop and back up, he just continued unabashedly down to the open spot.   And parked. TBG had gone native, y’all!!

Jerked back into reality

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Sometimes, this place is sorta like a big ole Disney-ish bubble, you know?  Very little crime, awesome weather during the winter, interesting places to go and things to do, top-level entertainment, and then there’s the camels…. <smile>

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The other day, TBG and I were driving to Abu Dhabi, and on the other side of the highway, driving towards Dubai, there was a huge tank being pulled on a flatbed, painted up all desert-camouflage.  Kinda brought back to my brain that we live in a part of the world here in the Middle East where there are some pretty significant issues being worked out.  Or worked on.  Or protested about.  People and ideas finding their way, making their complaints and grievances and beliefs known, and looking for betterment.  Or change.  Or recognition.

Sure isn’t Disneyworld.  I got jerked back into reality.

“CarWash, sir?”

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There are carwash guys in mall parking lots.  And parking garages.  They wear uniforms, carry receipt books pre printed and are very efficient.

They’re all over, they push little carts with I’m not sure what inside them, but lemme tell you, they do a bang-up job of washing your car while you’re shopping!  Cheap too, around $6-8 USD if my conversions are right, and they do it year round!

Communicating with them can be an issue, though.  They seem to recognize a few phrases in English – “How much?” they can answer, and if you hold up fingers “How long?” they can answer.  Outside of that, you’ll hear “yes yes yes” which seems to be the standard service answer.  And it does not necessarily mean “yes” at all.

An SUV costs approximately AED25 ($8) and a sedan AED20 ($6) plus tip.

But it certainly is nice to get out of a dusty, dirty car in the parking garage, and when you return to it (not always as easy as it sounds, BTW!  These parking garages are HUGE, multi-story, multiple entrances to the malls, on multiple levels!) and return to something sparkling and shiny clean.  For cheap.

Where did you go, Dubai??

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Dubai has officially disappeared.  Really.  I woke early this morning and decided to come downstairs and get the coffee started…… while waiting on the dripping thing (miss my Bunn coffeemaker!!) I peeked outside, and holy COW is it foggy in Dubai!!  I snapped this at 7 am local time, and you still cannot see past my back gate – looks like I’ve found the end of the world.  There’s tons of trees and buildings and a lake past that gate, but you can’t see any of it for the fog. Kinda like nothing else exists.

It seems to be a winter thing here, and the wrecks in the fog are legendary.  Multiple car-pileups were common, as inexperienced drivers continued to drive in the fog as they have in clear weather.  Some people here will turn on their 4-way flashers to drive in fog, which is really confusing – westerners think of that as a stopped vehicle in distress.

Thankfully, over the past few foggy days, there have been few crashes, and we’ll hope it continues.  But from where I look, it sure looks like Dubai has disappeared!

I saw Camels!

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I know, to some of you, it’s like “well, honey, after all, you *are* in the Middle East, what were you expecting, rhinos???” Smartbutts. But when I did see a camel, on the SIDE OF THE DANG ROAD, Y’ALL – I squealed. TBG thought something was wrong and his head snapped around to see what the heck I was all “Honey! Honey! Look! Look! Did you see them? Oh Honey, can we go back? Baby TURN AROUND! I saw some camels!!” about.  On the side of the busy road, behind the fence, there were about half-dozen or so camels.

I swear to you the man rolled his eyes. I just felt him do it behind his sunglasses. But, he went to the next roundabout (holymotherofallthingsgood) and turned around to go back and let me see the camels.

Now, to some people, seeing wild animals may not be a big deal. But to me? To us? Things happen….like when we were on a motorcycle in the middle of nowhere, maybe Colorado or Wyoming, no houses, fences, lights, just a road and cattle crossing pipes over the road. We topped over a hill and TBG suddenly cut the engine off. We were coasting. I thought he was playing till he turned his head and said “Look ahead.” And there they were. A mother horse and her baby. A WILD HORSE and her baby. As we coasted to a stop at the bottom of the hill, it was just a few feet from us and had stretched his neck out towards us, curious. His fur was all long and tangled with sticks and mud and twigs….. dusty little baby horse. He wasn’t afraid, just wondered what kind of horses we were, I suppose.

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But his mama, wild or not, was having no part of it. She made a “Mama Noise”….. you know the one. You stop doing whatever it is you’re doing in case any part of it was wrong…. And he headed back over towards her, skittery hooves clicking on the road.

Or in Alaska/Canada, dead of Winter, between Christmas and New Years, we were in the Bronco, driving from Alabama to our new duty station in Fairbanks, Alaska. Dark as can be, hadn’t seen another sign of life or cars or lights for about an hour or so driving. The headlights were struggling to cut through the darkness and ice fog settling in, and we still had hours to drive before a place to stay. Over a hill, down the hill, around a curve, and there – off to the side of the road, movement ahead. TBG skidded to a stop, not sure what we were seeing, maybe a big bear or something?

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Freekin caribou. Talk about a mismatched bit of critter, I swear it was put together by a committee somewhere using leftover parts. Kinda moose-y, kinda cow-y, bits of deerishness about it too….. funny. But they’re also about the size of a small car so you don’t wanna hit them – and this one was in no big hurry to cross the road, just meandered to the middle and stood there.

Understand “road” is a relative term…. It was hard-packed snow, smooth as glass and just as slick.

After we’d sat there for about a full minute, wondering, “OK – so how do you move a caribou?” we saw the reason…. Two young caribou came from the same side of the road, crossed beyond the adult, and made their way quickly to the other side of the road. Ooohhhh…… OK. We got it now. Caribou road guard. Cool. Neither one of us thought to grab a camera.

So when we see wild critters, it’s something that we’ve always liked, something special for us, always a surprise, it’s an omen of good luck. And I know that things are like they should be.

OK, – Back to the camels.

These are some odd-looking critters, you know? But they’re oddly friendly-faced, reminding me of a giraffe’s head and face, except for the horse lips. And TBG had turned around and pulled off the side of the road so I could take these photos…. Now mind you, he did *NOT* unlock the freekin child-safety door lock dealies, so I couldn’t get out and get any closer, but I was able to put the window down and snap a few shots…. Are these not just the coolest???
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