Disclaimer: The legal age for driving in Lebanon is 18. The legal age for stopping to drive in Lebanon is ‘when you die’.
Just got back home after dropping my sister at work. Its a 30min drive back and forth and even less when no traffic at sight (wishful thinking). However timing is not the point here, a mere 10min on the roads can drive you crazy in this city. Every single person I know would agree with me on that statement. If you do not then I do not know where the hell you have been hibernating your entire life.
The city’s infrastructure has developed and resembles merely that of European cities, only when you want to include street lights, road signs, and the freshly painted walking- across strips among others. All these perks available yet no one truly abides by, hence the still existent policemen who makes sure the circulation is running its course (failingly..).
When on the road, we come into collision with many types of drivers.
The following is a few of the different types of personalities I came up with and am sure many of you have encountered during your driving experience.
1- The famous “service” drivers:
Those are the famous shabby 1970s mercedes cars driven by retired senior citizens that roam the streets of the capital. They are the most popular used cheap means of transportation. They do not have a fixed fare; it all depends where you are going and the amount of traffic that the driver will have to put up with to take you to your destination. All you have to do is stop at the side of the road (not the pavement) and they come running to you one after the other.
They stop in the middle of the road with no prior warning. They honk nonstop whenever they see pedestrians walking the sidewalk (even if on opposite direction from the route they are taking). Most of them are over crowded with humans yet they insist on squeezing you somewhere back there. It seems that only one station functions in those cars; the arabic news station. And if you are lucky and your driver is a happy person (which is rare from what I have heard) old arabic songs blast nonstop from their radio.
Driving behind or next to a “service” is challenging to even the most careful and skillful driver. From stopping suddenly to pick up customers to changing lanes abruptly, one must be careful not as much as for the bipolar senile behind the wheel but for his mastering technics that might leave a scratch, bump or two on your brand new wheels.
2- The Lady in the 4/4
She thinks that she owns the roads for the simple fact that she does not own anything back in the house she shares with her parents or the home she lives with her husband. The only thing that she has in her name is her beloved Range Rover model 2015, all black everything black. You can easily picture her driving head up high, her snooty nose almost touching the ceiling and her pouty lips gazing at nothing at all .
She drives carelessly and most of the time aimlessly. She perceives herself as the only one on the road, hence you can imagine her driving skills. She does not acknowledge any other car driving beside her and would toss you away and even run you over if you dared to pass her. Perched on top of her seat, you can only dream (and count the seconds till she passes) if you ever want to cross the street, even if it’s your right to.
The lady in the Range Rover is on the set of the next Fast and Furious in the making. Do not judge her, her whole existence is merely a dream in the making (up in that head of hers).
3- The 80 year old couple.
They heard of the consequences of the Sykes- Picot Agreement at an earshot from their parents’ discussions. They witnessed World War II through the radio stations. They survived Lebanon’s many Arab wars. They lived throughout the Lebanese Golden and Switzerland years. And they will be driving themselves through the streets of Beirut in their newly purchased 2015 model Volvo (smart choice for security reasons).
The husband behind the wheel is unaware of the development of the road signs and street lights. He can barely differentiate between black and white, hence adding green, red and yellow to the equation leads only to oblivion. Most of the time, his last eye check up dates from 2009 leaving him confused when two or three cars pass him angrily in a street where minimum speed is of 60km (and he is driving safely a 30km/hour).
However, the good thing about this loving couple is that they are careless of what any other driver would think of them. Their aim is to safely arrive to destination even if others were left frustrated on the road, cursing under their teeth and wishing a certain age limit was imposed in the road law enforcement (guidebook).
4- The Valet
They are everywhere and they make our lives easy. They pick our car when we arrive at destination and we leave them worrying and finding a spot to park it in the over congested streets of our city. However, we tend to lack and sometimes overlook what happens when the valet is actually behind the wheels of our car.
Once I gave my car to the valet and witnessed him driving off like crazy disregarding the lights and pedestrians crossing the street. Furthermore, they blast the music of your radio and forget to lower it once they pass you the car. It is only when you drive away and push the radio ON that you get a split second heart attack from the sudden noise.
They are pushy and ever present. They would create a traffic jam within the already established traffic so as to take the time to park/ change / alternate the cars. They are the lords of the parking spots in the hotspots venues. We cant live without them yet despise their presence (and ever rising prices!).
5- The 1980s BMW zouzou.
Unfortunately we all know them. We all have had some sort of unpleasant interaction with them. We all wish them to go straight into a wall at the end of their cruise.
The boys/ men behind the wheels of the 1980s BMW cruise mainly on the highway next to the sea front. They have a certain timetable on weekends, mostly sundays where three to four guys meet up, each in his own car or paired up, and cruise back and forth both lanes of the highway at full speed regardless of the cars driving by. Their cars have been injected with one two many levels of steroids. Their engines are loud and the retro music blasting from their pumped up speakers even louder.
They are a nuisance and a high risk to anyone in the vicinity. Your luck can turn around if one of those boys/ men make eye contact with you. Good luck getting rid of this loser from your path. My favorite is when they lose hope and give a long strong push on their gear stick and vrooom away.
Its funny enough that I can hear them passing by while am sitting and writing at this exact moment. Boys will be boys and their cars their toys.
It is a frustration to drive in Lebanon but for many of us that is the only alternative we have since we can not fathom the idea of taking public means of transportation like the bus. The latter is present but most of us do not know on what system they work. I have not seen any proper bus stop stations especially when one of those moving engines decides to stop (again abruptly) to pick up customers. I have no idea what proper route they take and the idea of being sandwiched in between strangers in a dusty filled retro looking moving engine horrifies me. I wish the public system develops with time (though too late for the many of us). Alas, let’s stick to our cars and try to calm our road rage whenever out and about in the city.