Friday, October 7, 2011

Sources of stress in the UAE: A nervous Abu Dhabi taxi driver in Dubai

Every time I think it's going to be lovely, and it usually is - for the first hour and 15 minutes. Of course the taxi driver, delighted that I have decided to treat myself to a taxi instead of the bus, always needs to stop for petrol. Either he was just driving around town on fumes for thrills, and must double back into the closest Adnoc, which involves assorted back streets, U-turns and, of course, waiting in queues, or he realises it halfway there and worries openly about his dwindling supply with an ongoing "tsk tsk" sound. Then, blessedly, he spots an Adnoc.

Apparently, though, there is some sort of gas shortage. Why else would there be a line of cars 12 long just to get to a pump? He edges the car forward, hard on the break, hard on the gas, trying to sneak in, rolling down his window, pleading with car owners as they studiously ignore him and I try to hide in the back seat.

The real fretting begins when the tall buildings start appearing. And I don't know how to assuage it. I don't like driving in Dubai, either – hence the taxi. But since Abu Dhabi taxi drivers seem to have been issued a management directive against taking any sort of advance directions – really, since when have you been able to say 'after this right, next left' and have it mean anything? – it is next to impossible to direct them in any sort of meaningful way. (Ditto with giving a direction too soon - "turn right" has to be said at just the right time or the abrupt slamming of the brake will happen twice, once for nought)

I was once in a taxi hurtling around an off ramp to the Dubai Marina (having successfully manouevered that part) and when I tried to tell him what he had to do next. He slammed on the brakes. In the middle of the ramp.

That is when a speeding car hit us. Well, they clipped us, but it rocked the car. And kept going.

It's like they don't believe your directions.  Heading to Dubai Mall this week, I said "up here, go right, Dubai Mall. See brown sign? Dubai Mall".

"Right?" he said.

"Yes, right." I responded.

"Right?" he asked.

"Yes right," I responded, slightly more tersely as the median was approaching and he was decidedly not going right.

"Ri-" he started to say, breaking but not actually going in the right direction, and that's when it happened. All of a sudden, soclose to getting through one of these trips without losing my cool, we are hurtling down Sheikh Zayed Road and he's decided I don't know where to turn.

And that's when, like a lunatic, I start to yell: "RIGHT! RIGHT! RIGHT!"

The car jerks – where else? - to the right. But by now we are both freaked out of course. And he's the one with the foot on the brake and the gas, so the car is half-jerking as it makes its way to the entrance. And that's when I say: "Just stop. I can walk from here. Thank you."

And leave a massive tip to massage the guilt I feel over being a terrible person who yells as taxi drivers.


Anonymous said...

The newer Abu Dhbai taxi drivers are mostly inexperienced drivers who went from cycling to driving taxis.
Last, month just before the Ghantoot petrol station, cars all braked hard to almost crawling speed, an accident? No.
A taxi driver in the 3rd lane braked to 20 kph so he could enter the petrol staion.

deborah quinn said...

As a native New Yorker, I thought I was immune to crazy-taxi nerves, having suffered the insanity of NYC cab drivers for such a long time. Ah no...the AD cabbies set a new high in nerve-wrackingness. The street signs, passenger directions, traffic signals...these are all simply whimsy, it seems, mere suggestions or guidelines, to be waved away depending on the driver's mood.

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