Tuesday, 5 February 2008

You - pull over!

After picking my trusty little car up from the VW service centre I attempted to find my way to my tailor. I was rather happy that morning, as the service had cost a lot less than the original quote and I was quite pleased with the money I'd saved. I've never been to the service centre before, so I've had to drive that way. I had a nagging little feeling that I should have driven home and then started the journey the way I knew, but NO, I decided that Saturday was the day I'd find my own way.

Big mistake. Gigantic mistake. Colossal even.

True to form, I got lost. I could feel my blood pressure escalating but could do nothing about it because I didn't know where I was and had to focus on where I thought I was going but didn't in fact know. Finally, after about 45 minutes of aimless driving, getting cut off, beeped at, high beamed at (in the daytime!) and repeating all the swear words I know like a mantra, I FINALLY came to a familiar place.

Through the tunnel we went and due to all the traffic that I thought was queuing for another exit that was in fact MY exit, I missed it and took the next right. Instead of then turning left like the faded arrows on the road told me to, I swung a right in the hope that if I stayed in the direction I had to go I'd be able to find it. It turned out that turning right was not my finest choice.

The lane used to be a lane, but not anymore. Somehow I didn't see the red no entry sign and drove past it, realising a moment too late my lane didn't exist anymore. There was a left turn arrow, so I turned left into the next street, as I couldn't reverse or do a u-turn. I didn't really realise that there was a median strip painted OVER the left turn arrow, voiding its legality as a driving maneuver.

The SECOND I turned left I saw my big mistake - a fully decked out Dubai copper who pointed at me and said "you - pull over". Already very wound up from all the traffic and getting lost, I tried my very best to get out of it, but as I don't speak Arabic, arguing did me no good. He simple said "give me license". Explaining that I was new, that I'd never driven this way before and that there was an arrow on the road was useless - he kept muttering "no entry, you get fine" and that was the end of the story. My protests were finally met with "get out". I dumbly realised he meant get out of my car, so I did, fearing that I was about to get a pat down or a severe talking to for my aggressive manner. I reefed my handbag with me when I realised he meant to take me all the way back up the street to where I'd illegally turned and PHYSICALLY SHOW ME the no entry sign. In a comedy of errors that were absolutely not funny at that time, my handbag got stuck on the handbrake and I couldn't get my shoes on or get out of the car. I drive barefoot, and shoving my feet into my thongs somehow seemed as foreign an action as doing backwards cartwheels down the street.

I finally caught up with him and he pointed at the sign with a smirk. He proceeded writing my ticket and when I realised he wasn't going to explain to me what he was writing I started to get nervous. I told him I didn't speak or read Arabic and asked him to translate what he'd written. He just kept muttering "fine, no entry". Not believing my blood pressure could get any higher than it already was, I asked the other officer to come over to translate. He also smirked at me as though I was some kind of inferior road-kill because I couldn't understand his beloved language - to me it sounds like phlegm being hacked up on the sidewalk.

When I tried to ask HOW MUCH the fine was, the ticket writer replied "I don't know" as if I was stupid for asking a question that's clearly not asked very often. I asked him how he could give me a fine if he didn’t know how much it was for!! I’ve since found out they’re like monkeys and they just hand out fines. When we take them to the traffic department or a bank to pay them (which he helpfully pointed out on the English instructions on the back of the ticket), we’re told how much it is then. I think this is a complete wrought – seeing I can’t read the ticket and don’t already know how much it is, I think that the amount of the fine will be determine on how much the traffic department or bank teller wants to rip off this cranky looking white girl.

I realised I wasn't going to get anything out of either of them, so grabbed my license and ticket and jumped back in my car. I slammed the door so hard it made a bang and I silently thanked my lucky stars I hadn't clumsily got my fingers in the way. I don't think Dubai's friendly officers would have helped me in the slightest. This town's like survival of the fittest - if someone thought they could stab you in the back, steal your kidneys AND all the dirhams in your wallet they would. And then they'd stand over you and watch you bleed to death, bobbling their heads and saying "what to do, what to do".

I guess one benefit of having a freshly serviced car meant that it was going like a rocket because all the dust had been cleaned out of its bits. I dropped the biggest wheelie I've ever dropped before and almost fish-tailed my way out of there!

Strangely, a day or two earlier I'd been pondering the amazing fact that I've been driving for 2.5 months and hadn't yet got a traffic fine. This also happened last week when I wondered if I'd ever have to be involved in restraining a passenger on a flight. The end result of THAT thought is an entirely new blog entry!

I really should nip these thoughts in bud when I have them - next time I'll just turn the radio up and drown them out......

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