6. Directions

Today we are going to slightly move off the topic of driving and automobiles and touch on a subject I still find completely remarkable: the address system…or lack thereof.

The other day I got home from work very late at night and with a rumbling tummy decided that I would order a pizza.  I have used this reputable global franchise on hundreds of occasions, made all the more easier by a direct call to the delivery man and his two-wheeled steed.  Sadly Kumar is no longer under the employment of this chain and so I had to carefully explain to the lady over the phone to where the payload should be delivered.

We’ve all been there.  “Ok from the big Hotel you go right, and then at the first traffic lights turn right again” we begin.  “At the next roundabout – which has a big toilet brush on it – you turn left, third exit yes?”  You go on to say “after that you will see a big car park on your right, go past that and take the first right, no right, just after the pedestrian crossing.  OK then right again, and I live in flat 2a”.  It’s exhausting.  The chirpy/confused response you receive back only fills you with dread.

After 45 minutes my phone rang a one ringer.  Knowing it was the new delivery boy I was feeling spiteful so didn’t call him back straight away.  I’m already paying for the pizza; I’m not paying for phone calls too.  So he tried again.  After the third attempt I realised I was just cutting off my nose to spite my face so promptly returned the call.  What were his first words?  “Where are you?” he blurted. “I assume you’re calling from XXXXX XXX?  I’m at home” was my retort.  We batted directions once more in very loud voices covering most the Al Ain road network until I was certain I could do no more.

After another 10 minutes the phone rang again, for a second, so I had call back on my expense.  “ OK I am outside” I was told.  Overjoyed I picked up the parts of my brain had melted through my nostrils, put them back into my head and proceeded outside to find no one.  I called him back to investigate and we continued to discuss the coordinates once more.  After walking through my block to the main road in my socks and reindeer pyjamas I eventually found him.  There was no point showing my dissatisfaction I simply gave him the money to the nearest 10, said “keep the change” and took my stone cold lump of cheese and dough inside.

The situation reversed is also a pain.  How many times have you had to go somewhere – and the problem is at its worst in Dubai with its signpost allergy – and been told to go right at HSBC, then left past the Etisalat building and then right at the giant beanstalk before following the yellow brick road off a cliff?  It’s bonkers.  What can we do to lessen the bother?

Up the creek with no canoe...

If you have to go somewhere, force a road name out of whomever you are speaking to over the phone.  They do exist – albeit only in legend – and head to somewhere you are sure is nearby.  Simply park your car there and get a taxi the rest of the way.  At the very worst put the taxi driver on the phone to the destination and pass the problem off that way.

As far as home deliveries are concerned you are best advised to pick out landmarks and navigate them in via the stars.  Hopefully you will have enough savvy to know where your goods are born so you can determine a starting reference.  Join the dots of the landmarks.  Etisalat buildings, banks, roundabouts with bathroom equipment on, keep it simple for the poor man on the moped.  Try to avoid saying things like “Take Khaled Bin Sultan Street and turn left on to Sultan Bin Khaled Street and then get off before you reach Khalifa Bin Shakbut Street which brings you on to Shakbut Bin Saeed Street”, you won’t succeed.

Once you have him in your grasp ensure you get his number for the future and make your orders directly with him.  If possible, ask for the number of the delivery driver in advance and quickly send him an SMS message (which you should save in your templates) so he has a set of written instructions from which to follow from the beginning, and still get lost from.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this country very much.  These nuances are part of the game and you have to come to terms with them.  What I will suggest though is make sure you have a microwave.


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