Category Archives: Cars and driving

174. Car Crashes

I have been nestling within these Emirati dunes now for over six years, and in that time I have often thought about what I might be missing back home in Her Majesty’s Great Britain. Of course my favourite framing device for these pensive thoughts are my rose-tinted spectacles.

There is plenty about the UAE that winds me up, and most of my gripes can be read here, on this page, in the preceding 170-something blog entries. Whenever something goes wrong over here, or a mad announcement is reported in the press, I like to harrumph and stomp about wagging my finger and shouting “it wouldn’t be like this Britain I tells ya…” It’s all rather wearisome.

But truth be told, I know that I am wrong most of the time, and in fact there is plenty of things the UAE does better than the UK, and even in some circumstances, the UAE wipes the floor with Britannia.

Look, I know you've been waiting for 3 days now, but you have to be patient. Before we can remove the wreckage we need to ensure that none of the officers are allergic to nuts

Look, I know you’ve been waiting for 3 days now, but you have to be patient. Before we can remove the wreckage we need to ensure that none of the officers are allergic to nuts

A couple of weeks ago you may have noticed a few drippings of rain fell from the clouds and marinated most of the Emirates. This is one of the few events in which the UK can take a win; we know how to drive in poor weather. Here, no. Those whom aren’t used to rain continue to drive in a highly questionable manner and invariably end up upside down on a palm tree.

This meant that the emergency services had to all put in a bit of overtime, clearing the wreckages that so peppered the road network. I’m sure you all saw the police statement that claimed that in Dubai alone, there were over 700 accidents in just 14 hours. Over 700! That’s 50 an hour!

I was returning a press-car to a warehouse in Rashidiya that day, which meant driving from my home in the heart of Abu Dhabi, along the E11 and Sheikh Zayed Road, then through Festival City and past Dubai International Airport; a gauntlet even in dry conditions. The rain was absolutely tipping down and littering my entire route was wreckage after wreckage. It was carnage.

But do you know what? For what is normally a 1 hour 35 minute drive from door to door, took me only 1 hour 50. I only lost 15 minutes, which when you think about it isn’t that bad at all.

This is where I have to commend the excellent highway management of the police, yep, you heard that correctly: commend. On the E11 between Al Raha Beach and Jebel Ali I passed 14 accidents, and I was stuck in traffic for a total of only three minutes. In the UK you just know that I would have been stuck on the M1 for at least an hour before I even needed to think about second gear.

And that’s the thing; here in the UAE the police are far more concerned about getting the road open and the traffic moving than they are about taking care of someone’s already ruined Corvette. Health and Safety isn’t a factor, why? Because the accident has already happened and there’s no point crying over spilled milk. For whatever reason, two cars collided and now some people may have been hurt. So what? What will taking a million years to clear the wrecks achieve? No, it’s for the greater good that everyone else who isn’t going to crash is able to continue their journy hassle-free. Those involved will be dealt with accordingly away from the scene.

There’s more; last week two cars collided at a T-junction outside my apartment, one of them rolled over and the driver appeared most injured. Did they close the road? No, of course not, why should other motorists be inconvenienced? A brace of police cars and an ambulance were on the scene in minutes; they put out some cones, took a couple of photos with their iPhones, then a couple of recovery trucks arrived and cleared the two cars. Within 35 minutes the whole kafuffle was clear and you would have never known there was an accident.

In the UK there is so much red-tape and so many procedures that must be followed that it sometimes barely seems worth getting out of bed in the first place. I saw in the British press today that some goon crashed his Ferrari 458 into the central reservation on the M1 just outside of York, and as a result the motorway was closed for four hours! The damage was only cosmetic, it could have easily been driven to the inside hard shoulder, and within 20 minutes the motorway would have been flowing free again.

But no, this is mad Britain. The owner of the Ferrari didn’t want his precious 458 ruined anymore than it already was, so the police and recovery truck had to be careful. What?! You idiot! And what’s worse, the police carried out his wishes! But before they could gently move his scarlet scrap they had to take photographs, set up a mobile office, and measure the tyre marks with a trundle wheel, before a man with a clipboard and a luminous coat came along and said that it was too cold for the police to be working and that they should leave the M1 closed until the summer… I imagine.

Some might argue that all this is necessary so that a correct line of inquiry can be followed with regards to prosecution and insurance claims. But they are deluded and foolish. A man crashed his Ferrari, take a quick selfie next to the wreckage as evidence and get the damn thing out of the way so that the 600,000 non-crashing motorists that you have stacked-up like shipping containers can carry on with their lives.

For years now the UAE police have been trained by the British, I think the time has come for those roles to reverse.

 

RIP Peaches; you weren’t like the others and will be missed.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

172. Motoring

One of the perils of being out of full-time work for a prolonged period of time is that ones mind can wander far more easily. For some, the daily routine of removing oneself from bed at 11am just in time to sit down to spend the remainder of the morning on Facebook and Twitter may sound like a dream. It is not. After a while the walls do start to close in and the conversations you once shared with yourself in the mirror are now shared with various pieces of fruit… with marker-pen faces. Life. Is. Futile.

As a result, all this down time has kept me out of the real world and has forced me into a lot of reading. At this point I wish I could say I was reading something interesting like Churchill as Warlord by Max Hastings or the latest Jeremy Clarkson, but I can’t. Instead I trawl various newspapers from across the globe, specifically only reading articles that annoy me. Anything positive along of the lines of “World Peace given the green light” doesn’t interest me. I prefer to get all in a huff with Daily Mail nonsense like “EU demands all white single males remove a leg in the name of equality” or “Police chief says women drivers are to blame for every wrong in the history of the world”. I like reading things that will wind me up and make me angry to the point at which I shout at the oranges in the bathroom.

Now then, team, in light of recent events, only the boy oranges may drive the banana train, but it will cost you your skin...

Now then, team, in light of recent events, only the boy oranges may drive the banana train, but it will cost you your skin…

You can’t have missed the recent chitter chatter originating from certain traffic authorities. Within the last month we have been told that women drivers cause more accidents than male drivers, that in order to ease Dubai’s congestion issues, everything relating to motoring must be made more expensive, and then in the next breath that the legal driving age is to be reduced from 18 to 17.

Then, last week, statistics were released naming and shaming the five most calamitous nationalities on the roads of the Emirates. Yup, the top five countries that cause the most amount of accidents, injuries, and deaths. At number five we have the Egyptians, right behind Team Bangladesh in fourth. Just making the podium in third place were the Emiratis, losing out to Team India in second. But seizing the top spot was Pakistan; they caused 373 accidents, in which 577 people were injured and 33 sadly lost their lives.

Great. Now we know who look out for.

While it is easy to understand how those from other countries might not be so hot on driving competence – for example, I charge you to read up on what is involved in the Egyptian driving test – it is unacceptable to bring a gender dispute to the table. For thousands and thousands and thousands of years men called the shots. But then the suffragette movement came to be in the early 20th Century, and that laid the path for a more balanced playing field between the sexes. In modern times, gender bigotry is as welcome as polio.

I personally don’t see the harm in a bit of banter between friends, and naughty calendars pinned up in British garages are just a bit of harmless fun. But in the real world, going on public record and saying that “women are dangerous drivers” is as barmy as you like. You only have to look at the figures and details released only two paragraphs ago, about our friends from Pakistan… how many lady truck drivers do you know over here? There are good drivers and there are bad drivers; gender doesn’t come into it.

But it is not as mad as the mooted proposals aimed at tackling the congestion issue. As Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to grow as cities, it must be expected that traffic will also increase. Anyone who thinks that the car itself is the problem is as deluded as those who believe women are more dangerous than men behind the wheel.

If you build an entire city around one road – Sheikh Zayed Road, for example – then what do you expect to happen when everyone along a 40km stretch of tarmac starts and finishes work at the same time?! A rush hour is just a sign of how well your country is doing! If you don’t have a rush hour, then you need to cock an eyebrow.

So what is the solution on the table? Well, to impose a salary cap on car ownership and make motoring more expensive. Hold the phone there, does that mean those poorer folk who fall below the – currently unpublished – salary cap will be forced to…to…to what? What if they live or work miles from the Metro? A return trip in a taxi 5-6 days a week is as expensive as driving. Will the employer then send out a company driver? But doesn’t that then defeat the purpose?

Then, additionally, “certain types of people” will be only be allowed to own one car, much like communist China’s one-child-only rule. For those whom the hammer and sickle will allow to own a car, fuel, registration, and anything else involved in motoring can expect massive price increases. And then, after all this, the legal driving age is to be lowered.

But, as I say, I sit here in UAEUncutTowers, unemployed and cocooned within my neat little apartment, and away from all the hullabaloo and the madness. After reading what is going on out there in the real world, I sometimes wonder if maybe I’m better off staying unemployed and talking to the oranges…

Tagged , , , , ,

171. Metro

Isn’t it great being wrong? Being proven wrong suggests that you were, at some point, immensely confident that you were right, only for someone else to turn around and stick two fingers up at you. Those who believe that they are always right are, frankly, imbeciles. It takes a strong man or woman to hold their hands up and admit error. There is nothing quite so humbling, and there is little else that will aid your human development quite so.

There are, naturally, many degrees of wrongness; ranging from an ill-judged drone-strike on a convent school full of nuns to a simple mispronunciation of someone’s name. Then there are opinions. These can be tricky bastards as the definition of an opinion is “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge”. So theoretically an opinion can neither be right nor wrong.

Nothing gets a debate going quite like a differing of opinions. I have enjoyed many of these opinionated debates over time, and there is nothing more exhilarating than getting stuck in when you have absolutely no idea what you’re on about, or even what the subject is. But from time to time it’s nice to debate something of which you know a great deal, just to reassure yourself that your place in the Ivory Tower is valid. And among us expats a common topic of debate is that of airlines, something of which I am now quite well-versed.

I am forever being asked who the best airline to fly with is, and my answer is always the same: “British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, KLM, or Virgin Atlantic”. All of them are absolutely brilliant. Once I have laid my cards on the table, the follow-up statement usually runs along the lines of “Oh no, I wouldn’t go with British Airways, I had a bad experience with them once”. If you can be bothered, ask the person what the bad experience actually was, and I’d bet my face that they say something like “I sat next to smelly passenger”. Hmm… Ok.

I know people who have made a complaint about each and every one of the airlines that I listed above, and each and every reason why they “had a bad experience” is due to fellow passengers. But how can you possibly hold the airline accountable for that? Emirates don’t implement mad policies like that of Abercrombie & Fitch. They can’t turn passengers away just because they read The Guardian, nor can they deny travel to a man with curious body odour. “The guy next to me spilled coffee on my lap” they say. Ok, I sympathise, but again, you can’t blame that on poor old Richard Branson.

If the pilot shouted over the PA that everyone on board was a c*** and the stewardess thought it would be funny to open the door at 38,000 feet then yes, perhaps a cause for grievance could be raised. But you can’t judge an airline purely on the smell, appearance, or sexual orientation of its passengers. I have had two bad flights; one due to a wailing banshee, and the other due to turbulence of such magnitude that I am still amazed I am here today. Was that Etihad’s fault? No, of course it wasn’t.

This neatly brings me onto the Dubai Metro. For years I have asked why it was needed, and have refused to believe that it actually makes any difference to traffic congestion. I have called it names, pulled its hair, lifted its skirt up in the playground, and beaten it up for its lunch money. All in the name of reason, I have dragged it through the mud. It may then come as a surprise to read that, this week, I rode on it for the very first time.

Before you all begin to question the integrity of UAE Uncut and cry bloody murder on me, I can honestly say that it was an enlightening experience. With the exception of their BS claim that it carries more passengers annually than the glorious London Underground (nothing compares with the Messiah of urban rail travel), I found the experience monumentally pleasant.

Not quite enough delicious history to be ranked alongside the Tube, but you're alright...

Not quite enough delicious history to be ranked alongside the Tube, but you’re alright…

My first adventure was merely a toe-in. I hopped on at Ibn Batutta Mall, and alighted at Dubai Marina Mall, which was only about four stops away. No complaints. It was Munich-clean, timely, and peaceful. But, it was 1:30 PM, the equivalent to slack water; perhaps not a true test of its rush-hour capabilities.

I then rode it again, this time for a man-sized portion of journey during the evening commute. I jumped on at the Emirates station, up near the airport, and disembarked at Dubai Mall: that is about half the distance of the Red Line’s route. Boy, was it crowded. When I got on it was empty, before I realised I was accidentally in the ladies-only carriage. But even when I was rudely moved to steerage by a snotty lady, it was still empty… albeit for only one stop.

The aroma of body odour and the sound of hocked phlegm nestling in the epiglottises of my fellow passengers was detestable. Thankfully I was equipped with earphones and Greenday and was thus able to drown out the assorted noises. The smells, though, had to be toughed out to the bitter end.

Was my impression of the Metro altered after these two differing experiences? Yes. I still believe that it is more of a tourist attraction than a genuine means of metropolitan travel, and that it certainly doesn’t carry 12 trillion people a day. But it is clean and prompt, the trains are regular and punctual, the stations are well sign-posted and located conveniently. It is, really, an exceptionally well-designed and well-engineered asset.

Was I wrong about it? Yes. Do I take back what I said? Yes. Would I ride it again? Yes… but only if the car was broken-down.

Tagged , , , ,

162. Trucks

Moaning, it would seem, is the last bastion of hope that we have when we don’t understand why things are the way they are. As you would expect, then, UAE Uncut is replete with folly and misunderstandings resulting from lackluster research. It is all too easy to pipe up and say that “none of it makes any sense” when really all it would take is some strategic Googling.  Still, we’re in too deep now so I shall persevere in the manner of which you are all accustomed.

Last week I was at a training day at Motor City in Dubai. Once the day was done, at around 5pm on Thursday afternoon, I was tasked with driving home to Abu Dhabi. On the face of it that didn’t sound like too tall an order, but… sweet baby Jesus. I turned on the radio – a rare treat for an institutionalised Al Ain-ian like me – and sure enough the broadcaster confirmed that it was essentially a frothing maelstrom of hopelessness and despair out there; total bedlam.

I decided that I would avoid the trouble spots – that being literally all of Dubai – and stay on the E111, the road formerly known as Emirates Road but which is now called Sheikh Mohammed Road, and join the E11 at the Abu Dhabi border. It was a smart move and things were going well, right up until the point when I called my wife to boast of my traffic-dodging prowess, when everything just stopped.

For the best part of 30 minutes I covered approximately 500 yards, and looking around it was easy to understand why: Trucks, or Lorries, if you’re British. There are tens of billions of them, clogging up all the main roads and through-fares.

Of course I am familiar with the importance of the truck. Without trucks then there would be no food in the supermarkets, no concrete to deliver to the wrong building sites, and no winter jackets for the malls to sell in the height of summer. The truck is the very backbone of any functional society, and whether we like it or not, is as constant and as inevitable as death and taxes.

That being said, they are a menace to the common man when he is going about his daily rituals. While I was being propelled along Sheikh Mohammed Road by nothing other than continental drift, two leviathans decided to crash into one another at the slowest recorded speed in all of human history. The carriageway consisted of three lanes on the approach to a useless roundabout, and one truck turned in on the other. So the police turned up and after many a furrowed-brow and pointless traffic cone, and just on the eve of my 200th birthday, I was eventually allowed to pass.

Now I know that the UAE has several “truck roads” snaking around the country, and that really is something that few developed western nations can brag of having. I would hate to think how bad it would be without them, but I really can’t get my head around the fact that they are allowed out on the road network at all during rush hour.

Stuff this, I'll take go through Jumeriah Lake Towers, how bad can it be?

Stuff this, I’ll go through Jumeriah Lake Towers, how bad can it be?

The entire inside lane is just one long stream of trucks, which makes seeing your exit nearly impossible, and actually taking your exit physically impossible. Twin this with the fact that there are some rogue truckers who like to overtake the 1930’s water trucks at walking pace and you’re in a whole world of misery. Even Steve McQueen would struggle to negotiate it all. Yes the trucks need to be out there delivering their payloads, otherwise everything would just grind to a halt, but Holy Mary, do you think that we could get them all to pull over between 5pm and 7pm once a day?

As ever, I am prepared with a solution: There is no shortage of space out there as the motorways are generally surrounded by nothing other than mile upon mile of barren, featureless, inhospitable desert. Why not brick it over and make special truck parking bays so when the clock strikes five they all just pull over and let the rest of us go home?

The amount of accidents would reduce instantly, our stress levels would also take a dive, plus we’d all be driving faster and therefore using more precious fuel, which will only be of benefit to the economy. It’s a no-brainer. Ok, there might be the occasional missed delivery, but really, who gives a damn about whether or not River Island don’t have the latest winter jackets in stock? All it would take is some logical planning…

…Oh no wait. That will just cause even more chaos. Bah, none of it makes any sense.

Tagged , , , , , ,

156. Speed limits

The other day, before I went off on a mad tangent about personal quandaries, I began by complaining about the latest means by which to stop road traffic accidents. In case you missed it, speed limits in Dubai are to be reduced by a whopping 10 kph on expressways – such as Sheikh Zayed Road – and a further something or another on roads for which I wasn’t paying attention. This, they say, will reduce the amount of accidents because everyone will be driving 10 kph slower.

This is a classic case of missing the point. It would seem that no matter where you go in this world the silent, law abiding masses are forced to suffer for the follies of those who lack a moral compass. The reduction of speed limits is futile, 100%.

Yes, son, I know you're a good driver. But you did a traffic boo boo and now you're in trouble...

Yes, son, I know you’re a good driver. But you did a traffic boo boo and now you’re in trouble…

At present, Shiekh Zayed Road has a limit of 120 kph. It is known throughout Dubai circles as the most deadly road in the UAE. According to a set of misinterpreted Facebook statuses and brazen Tweets, 7 million people are involved in crashes along Dubai’s flagship expressway every minute. But before the high and the mighty bombard me with “speed kills” messages and subject the rest of you to their opinions as opposed to facts; can I point out how few crashes there have been when a car has been travelling at a steady 120 kph minding its own business? Well I cant, and nor can you back up your nonsensical claptrap to the contrary, either. But that won’t stop me giving it a go.

The idea of a man driving his Nissan Sunny at 120 kph along Shiekh Zayed Road is simple to picture. There he is, two hands on the wheel, right foot on the throttle, bit of Kenny and Accalia and a due sense of respect and understanding for the limit imposed. Then, from the port side, a fellow road user swings out of nowhere cutting in front of Nissan Sunny man, clipping the wing and rolling it. Was speed to blame for this? Like hell it was. It was the pure idiocy of the other driver who failed to signal or check his mirrors before proceeding to swerve.

Now, the self-righteous and the pious I’m sure will slam down their tea cups and tell me that “if the lane-swerver was going slower he would never have rolled!” And you’re absolutely right. I agree that if both Nissan Sunny man and the swervista had both been driving at 40 kph then it would have been nothing but a simple scratch. But if you think that there is any notable difference between 110 and 120 kph when it comes to collisions of that nature then I’m afraid the planet Earth has no further need of you.

I charge you to put down your copy of Marxism for Dummies and check into a hotel along Sheikh Zayed Road. Book a room with a view over the road and sit there observing what is going on. By applying a simple mathematic equation you will come to the conclusion that only 0.83% of Shiekh Zayed Road users are uncouth and dangerous. No, really, most people are law abiding citizens who sit comfortably at the speed limit.

The problems lie elsewhere. Idiots who have no sense of lane law are the biggest killers out there, and then there are those who think that the indicator stalk is simply a hook for which to hang their sunglasses. There’s more, Dubai itself can be blamed to a degree by not furnishing the road with adequate signage. If the exits were signposted properly then people wouldn’t need to suddenly cut across several lanes leaving a trail of fire and destruction in their wakes.

Finally, and most obviously, we have those who are over-compensating for the size of their modest vegetables. Johnny Big-Potatoes with is modified Hummer loves nothing more than to hoon along Sheikh Zayed Road at 200 kph listening to Spice Girls remixes. He has no concerns about speeding fines because they don’t even dent his wallet. If the police want to take his Hummer then no matter, he’ll go home and get the FJ Cruiser out, which by the way is the ugliest and most repulsive car in the history of the human race. He doesn’t care for speed limits, why should he? He has nowhere to be and life is just a bit of fun. If he is racing along at 200 kph then it is only the other road users that will have to slow down, he is still able to continue to do as he pleases.

The solution, then? Don’t bother changing the speed limits by the most pointless of margins. Anyone caught driving recklessly, in any capacity, should have their vegetables boiled instead.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

154. Roundabouts II

Everything in life has a purpose, apart from flies, obviously. It is true that when you buy a phone these days it is not solely intended to make and receive calls. It will also provide you with internet access, maps, and applications that simulate your friends being killed by meteor-showers. Furthermore, it will allow you to remind the rest of us what you look like with a pouty face in the mirror and give us an insight into the texture and form of your stool through social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pictaface, and Tumblr.

Phones these days are multi-purpose. If you have an iPhone, what is the point of having an iPad? Isn’t it essentially the same thing but only bigger and more expensive but doesn’t allow you to phone someone on a drunken night out? Further still, what is the point of having a lap top, or even a desk top computer? Black leather address book? No, gone. All replaced by the insatiable beast that is common technology.

One day, when iPhones rule the world, I swear they will look at us primates in zoos and think to themselves “surely this lot weren’t the creators? How did they, these humans, ever invent us, the omnipotent iPhone 40 million and 12? They couldn’t even remain within two white painted lines nor could they apply logic and select the only appropriate lane relative to their destination.”

As the common human laughed at the inability of the dodo to survive the evolutionary washing machine, the iPhones of the future will laugh at us for not being able to use roundabouts properly.

I have written about this before, but how, really, can you not use a roundabout correctly? How hard is it? The UAE is peppered with roundabouts since, if used correctly, they are the ultimate form of junction. Would I prefer to have a crossroad with traffic lights? Absolutely not, spare me from such iniquity. The crossroad is the lazy mans solution; leaving the control of the junction to some malevolent, supercilious, self-obsessed set of traffic lights? No, that’s what the iPhones want. Human chaos controlled by technology. No. No, no, no.

The roundabout is nature’s way of giving us a fighting chance against the inevitable iPhone invasion. When i-Day comes we can stand tall together and say that we, the human race that has collectively won and lost every single war it has ever started on itself, was able to allow traffic to flow freely without the need for electronic technology. We will be great again.

However, there is bad news. It would appear that there are very few around that have worked out what to do with roundabouts. Allow me to illustrate: on the typical Al Ain roundabout there are three lanes. On the approach you must select which is most suitable for you and your desired exit. Now, on your traditional four-exit roundabout you should be in the left lane should you wish to take the third or fourth exits (i.e. a lefterly direction or a U-turn). Should you wish to go straight on – the second exit – then you will ideally stay in the middle lane or remain in the right. Should you wish to take the first exit off the roundabout then you remain in the right lane only.

Whatever your choice of direction is once on the roundabout, you do not break formation. There are white lines on the ground. This is paint. Babies know what paint is. Hell, dogs know what paint is. In fact, scarily, an iPhone can tell you what type of paint it is. You stay within your markers. Should you drift beyond your markers then you are a traitor, a pawn to our future i-Leaders. If you are in the wrong lane, or you have strayed over the white lines because you made an error on trajectory, then you should a) have your license revoked, b) have to re-sit your driving test and c) accept that a phone, yes, a phone, is smarter than you.

This should slow down the first wave of iPhone invaders...

This should slow down the first wave of iPhone invaders…

But there’s more. How many times have you been sat there waiting to enter the roundabout when Johnny Over-Compensating-For-Something is screeching round like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder? In such a case I would be tempted to play hard ball and risk all – for a laugh. But I am uncouth and brazen and would not recommend you follow suit. I like to put up a fight.

Then there are those who continue to park on roundabouts. I’m sorry, but if anyone is caught doing this then they should have their tyres removed and then be made to wear them. Who could possibly think that that is a good idea? Whatsapp message: “Hi m8. fancy meetin up l8rz? Wht bout RA wit da rock on it?” No! Go to a restaurant and have a meal like normal people for goodness sake!

How will we ever trounce the iPhone invasion if we cannot keep our simple cars – which are powered by a series of successive explosions – between two thin veneers of paint, stay left to go left or right to go right, or continue to treat them as car parks? When the first wave of Angry Birds come, I’m staying away from roundabouts and taking the high road into the desert.

I know that in this multi-purpose world it can seem that everything must have more than just one function. But that is not the case. There are still many things that have been designed to serve one purpose and one purpose only. Roundabouts are to managing traffic as mirrors are to reflecting things. Don’t let these glorious circular beacons of hope go the way of the conventional phone.

Because when the iPhones take over and we’re all caged up in zoos, we will become evolutions greatest joke of all.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

150. Petrol Station

This week there have been many shocking revelations in News-o-sphere. Helen Flanagan was voted “Britain’s Sexiest Woman”, another Conservative MP has found himself in hot water and of course the BBC continues to spiral into the scandalous abyss. But that’s Britain; what of the UAE? Well, Justin Bieber got asked for ID in a nightclub, failed to get served a pint, so left on the roof of a car. Property prices in Dubai soared. Then property prices in Dubai dipped. But of all the stories to have caught my eye this week, the revelation pertaining to petrol stations had my arms up the high-most.

From next week there will be ten petrol stations in Dubai that will switch over to self-service between midnight and 6am. In case you require any further elaboration, that means that between midnight and 6am there will be no forecourt attendant; you will have to get out and fill her up yourself.

Stop the presses.

I have just come round after collapsing with shock at this announcement, and I find myself in the uncomfortable situation of having to drag this subject out over 1000 words; but where to begin? Stupidity seems as good a place as any. This has been tried before back in 2008. Dubai and the Northern Emirates trialled 10 or so petrol stations as self-service but the scheme was cut short since – and I quote – “two thirds of the people didn’t like it and couldn’t work out what to do.” Are these the same people who are allowed to drive cars on the road and raise children I wonder?

In the UK, and indeed most of the world, the standard practice when wishing to refuel ones car is to pull up at the pump, turn the engine off, get out, open the filler cap, pick up the nozzle of choice, put it in and squeeze until the dial annoyingly says £10.01. You then go into the kiosk, pick up some Smarties and a Daily Mail, pay the man who speaks Urdu, return to the car and you’re done. This is something that we all do. It is, in essence, an easy process.

Now I want to make it plain that Britain is not the brains of the world, we are the nation that people like Helen Flanagan, Amy Childs, and Alex Reid call home. They too share the Queens’ message in their passports just like I do. These people are just able to fathom which end of a dart to throw and, I presume, are able to successfully use a toilet. But even they are capable of driving themselves to the local BP garage and putting £20.01 of Unleaded into their Citroen C1. Well, without setting themselves alight anyway.

Reading some of the quotes from actual people – people who have been assessed and then given legal permission to control a car that can exceed speeds of 150kph – I find myself alarmed. “What do I do?” said one; “what if there is a fire?” said another. “How do I pay?” was my personal favourite. I am genuinely worried for my own safety, what if I encounter one of these people on the road? If they can’t work out how to use a fuel pump then what will happen if they need to do an emergency stop on Sheikh Zayed Road?

How do you put out a fire? Well, picking up an extinguisher and aiming it and the base would be a good start. Not knowing how to put out a fire is…well…unbelievable. What if your kitchen caught alight and your kids were in there? Panicking won’t help; you could try poking the flames with a broom I guess.

Furthermore, how in the name of the almighty can you not know which fuel your car runs on? What have you been telling the man at the pump? One woman said that she didn’t know which fuel her car ran on so left it up to the man to decide. Wonderful; how the hell can you not know?! Is she allowed to have children? Will she also not know that cutlery shouldn’t be jammed into live plug sockets?

Get. Out. The. Car......Mate.

Get. Out. The. Car……Mate.

The UAE is predominantly a service industry nation, and since labour is so cheap people have been afforded convenience on an unprecedented scale. You have a man for this, a man for that, the only thing you need to worry about is getting out of bed and picking your nose, everything else is done for you.

I’ve always thought that having a man wearing blue trousers and a moustache to fill my car is phenomenally lazy. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderfully convenient, especially when it’s 50 Celsius outside and you can remain in an air-conditioned paradise. But what will we all do when Mad Max happens?

Sometimes I find myself embarrassed to be a human being. Any motorist who does not know how to put petrol into a car should have their driving license revoked and then be chemically castrated. No, really. If you can’t fill your tank then how will you be able to stop your child from electrocuting themselves?

The only positive aspect about being an ignorant, thick, air-heard is that you stand a better chance of making lots of money and being voted “Britain’s Sexiest Unspecified Gender.”

The world really has gone mad. Depressing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

148. Police Car

Plot holes are everywhere; in film, in literature, and of course, in real life. Let us take The Lord of the Rings as a case in point. They have to get from one end of a weird world to another for a reason that eludes me. There is a flying bird-griffin thing that assists the starring cast in a time of crisis by picking them up and flying with them on its back. So as opposed to walking across mountains that eat you, and through Orc-infested pastures, I ask why they didn’t just save time and fly the griffin-bird all the way? Surely that would have made more sense?

Then there was The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker travelled a great distance to meet a miniature, green, Frank Oz. But it wasn’t until the ghost of Alec Guinness piped up and pointed out that the little green puppet didn’t have much a choice other than to show Luke how to climb trees to save the galaxy. Had Yoda stood by his statement of “I can’t teach this kid, he’s a mug” then the Star Wars franchise would have stopped there and the Empire would have won. Really, what choice did he have?

Then, of course, there is Keeping up with the Kardashians; how does the title family not know that we, the norms of society, think that they are all morons? Surely no one can be that naïve and dim-witted? Although whether there is an actual plot in KUWTK is debatable in the first instance.

Moving away from the fictitious land of nonsensical rubbish, what of the plot holes in real life? The British press have been in the British press a lot over the last couple of years for numerous reasons. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the whole celebrity super-injunction business? No, well, it’s very simple to understand. Manchester United and Welsh national footballer Ryan Giggs was one of the most high-profile examples. He had an affair with an air-head, but to stop the story making the papers he took out a super injunction in court that prevented the media from outing him as a cheating bastard.

As a result of the injunction the press were then legally bound and unable to print or broadcast the story. However, those who use Twitter and who are not licensed paparazzi were exempt from the ruling because they were the general public. We then had this ridiculous situation where the whole world and its dog knew that Ryan Giggs had been attempting to make babies with Imogen Thomas, but The Sun wasn’t allowed to say so. Madness.

Being fond of saddling my high horse and pouring scorn over those who I feel are beneath me, I enjoy looking for fault and folly in everything. My cynicism, my fiancé tells me, will eventually drive me and her to the brink of insanity. But until such a time I shall proceed. The latest plot hole to expose itself actually comes in the shape of a Ferrari. Yes, sorry Italy, but things aren’t going well.

You may have heard that Dubai Police have recently acquired a Ferrari Four; or an FF for the abbreviation lovers. This, I should add, is in addition to the fleets’ former flagship; a Lamborghini Aventador. The Bill can now protect and serve in sleek, Italian style.

I, typically, have some queries about such a purchase. A police car is supposed to be functional, style is as important as a Kardashians’ opinion. That’s why our lot in Blighty are given the next-to-near useless Vauxhall Astra diesel. Oh it goes, but it has the automotive styling characteristics of a dead hedgehog. But, unlike the Ferrari or the Lamborghini, it is not confused by things like road humps. Can you imagine Sheriff John Burnell commentating on Worlds Wildest Police Chases and highlighting the fact that a Nissan Sunny out-foxed a Ferrari squad car because the driver had the foresight to use a back road replete with humps? Embarrassing isn’t the word.

Dammit Hooker! That's a $300,000 Ferrari! Get off the damn bonnet!

Dammit Hooker! That’s a $300,000 Ferrari! Get off the damn bonnet!

Then we come to the business of arresting perpetrators. Criminals, low-lives and law-breakers should not be granted luxuries. If you were arrested for stealing a loaf of bread then how cool would it be to tell the rest of your friends in the Legion of Doom that you rode in the back of an Italian supercar? But if you were man-handled into the back of an Astra diesel or a Ford Crown Victoria you’d probably want to keep it a secret. Unless TJ Hooker was on the bonnet, shouting.

After all this then there is the inevitable question of insurance and cost. Police cars don’t just appear out of nowhere. Not only are they manufactured just like every other car but they also have to be modified. They need radio equipment, sirens, lights, painting, patronising slogans, and suspension that allows them to launch 80 feet into the air with William Shatner on the bonnet and land without damage. If a police car costs AED 1,200,000 then how can it “pit” rogue car-jackers? How will it chase Burt Reynolds across the confederate rural landscape? How will Mel Gibson pull down a house on stilts? There will be too much pressure to keep the car mint, what will the insurance company say when Riggs and Murtaugh bring it back in a bag?

We all know that status symbols fly over here, and that’s fine. It is a part of the UAE life. But these are austere times and people don’t have the money they once did, with the exception of Fiat and Audi (the owners of Ferrari and Lamborghini respectively). In this rather boring day and age, things need to be functional, appropriate and above all else, cost effective. And there is no better institution to lead the cause and set an example of modesty than the police.

But supercars are supposed to be mad. They are meant to be pointless cars that only the rich and famous can afford. They are a symbol of edginess that suggests to passers-by that the occupants are a bit mad. This is not a becoming look for a policeman.

This is a major plot hole and it begs the question, then, what the hell is the point?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

147. Emirates Road II

Whatever road you choose, always wear your seatbelt...

Whatever road you choose, always wear your seatbelt…

Last year I compared Emirates Road to communism. Both, I said, worked perfectly in theory. No, really. Emirates Road is a 14-lane wonder highway designed to deal with all kinds of vehicles from Kia Rios to articulated leviathans. All the vehicles of the rainbow can travel side by side in perfect harmony. Communism works in the same way; everyone is equal and receives the same treatment as their neighbours. What a picturesque ideology.

Of course, the reality of communism is very different. Firstly, everyone can’t be equal; there must always be a leader. Secondly, it breeds horrific poverty and lots of people are killed. In practice it just doesn’t work; despite what those lot wearing Thatcher masks at Trafalgar square would have you believe. Emirates Road, too, doesn’t work in real life. It’s all very lovely having seven lanes on each side, but if those lanes aren’t used correctly then it all goes askew and the police spend hours picking bits of Toyota Yaris out of Eddie Stobart. It is an undesirable gauntlet.

I suggested last year that we heed the call of Ronald Reagan and tear it all down. Well, in January the UAE did the next best thing and re-branded it. Emirates Road is no more; allow me to introduce Sheikh Mohammed Road. Yes, I know that that is the 246th road of that name, but I am reliably informed that the name change will usher in a new regime of change. The proverbial wall has been torn down.

No longer will Leyland DAF’s perilously swerve lanes without any indication or warning. Goods lorries with missing wheels and un-serviced brakes will no longer be allowed to jack-knife and roll over. Water trucks built during the Battle of Hastings that leak their entire load will be outlawed. In addition to this, each lane will have a fixed speed limit; the outside lane will be set at 120 kph, the next one in will be 100, then 90, then 80, then 70, then 60 and then finally on the inside lane – for the trucks – will be set at 50kph. Your salary will dictate what lane you can use, so the harder you work (or the more cunning the criminal you are) the faster you are allowed to go. Anyone caught doing the wrong speed in the wrong lane will be arrested and fed to the kraken.

But, naturally, no matter how much legislation you enforce or how many rules you make, you cannot stop the human condition. There are still those of a Toyota Hilux disposition that have an unquenchable thirst for mayhem and carnage and they cannot be forgotten. They liked the idea of lane-speed equality and my guess is that they won’t take too kindly to this new, capitalist regime. The UAE has given this a great deal of thought and as such have renamed the Dubai by-pass road as “Emirates Road.” It can only go well. In case you aren’t aware, the Dubai by-pass road is a road that by-passes Dubai, it mirrors the road formerly known as Emirates Road exactly, by running parallel some 8km further inland. I foresee no confusion…

It is a great metaphor for the UAE, which even after having lived here for five years, I cannot decide whether it is a capitalist or communist state. It seems that you are free to make as much money as you like, but at the same time everything is owned and run by the government and they decide who gets what. It seems that there is no difference between nationalised and privatised enterprise.

People are to be given a choice between left and right. All of those who do not fancy driving in class-structured harmony alongside each other on Sheikh Mohammed Road will be asked to transfer themselves onto the new Emirates Road. This new Emirates Road will be a bit like the old USSR. People will be allowed to do whatever the hell they like to survive despite the tag-line of “fairness”. One litre Yaris’ will be able to speed along in the fast lane in-between all the Ladas and oxen. If they crash, they have no one to blame but themselves. Lorries will be able to use whatever lane they like with however many missing wheels they like, too. Hilux’s can swerve elegantly from lane to lane like massive mechanical butterflies. Everyone will be on the same level.

So there we are: you want to get from one end of Dubai to the other, you have two choices. You can either opt for the free-market Sheikh Mohammed Road with its rules of structure. The elite will be able to use their fast, expensive cars in the outside lane, the middle classes can cruise safely in the middle, and the working classes can trundle along next to the truck lane at 60kph, to save fuel. If this doesn’t take your fancy and you have a particular penchant for coal mines, Arthur Scargill and certain death, then you are free to use the far-left new Emirates Road. It sounds like fun, everyone being on the same level and all, but tell me which road you would rather use to get from Sharjah to Motor City?

It certainly all works in theory…

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

144. Driving age

Tonight I am sitting here in my 128th floor office at UAE Uncut Towers with the air conditioning on. I have traded the snow and the bitter cold of the UK for the relentless inferno that is the UAE. Yes, I have returneth. Being back in London last week was, in all honesty, a rather large eye-opener for yours truly. Oh sure it was wonderful to catch up with my friends and family, but as I sat there in The Victoria one afternoon listening to a table of elderly men discuss the proportional differences between their wedding vegetables, I was hit by startling revelation: I am an idiot.

No, really, I am as beef-witted as your out-of-the-box Kardashian. I normally come to this little corner of the internet, rant and rave about the UAE and how the UK is this and that, and then go ahead and contradict myself the following day. But as I sat there eavesdropping on unquestionably the most disturbing conversation held since Charles Manson’s initial get-together, I asked myself what the hell did I see in that place? The old men with mismatched genitals, their ailments, the dinosaur attitude towards busty barmaids; Jesus, where was I? The following day I was back in the same pub and wept a tear from my eye about how much I loved it and how brilliant it was.

Last week I sang the praises of London Transport, but since that time I had to ride the District Line during the rush hour. Standing there with my nose in a stranger’s armpit and a copy of The Metro up my bottom I turned on my own sentiments like a flash. And therein lies the problem; I change opinions like I change underpants (which to put your mind at ease, is a daily routine). Seriously, I cannot keep an opinion for more than a minute without swapping it for a shiny new one whenever the mood takes me. How, then, will I ever be taken seriously as a writer? What use would I be coming before you one day saying that George Osbourne is about as effective a Chancellor as a carrot, and then the next day preach his recession-combating magnificence? I’d be jeered, booed, ridiculed and most likely, shot.

So, is this the end of UAE Uncut? Has my unswerving integrity finally been exposed as nothing more than a charade? Am I just another internet thug with brainwashing intent? Probably, but that won’t stop me telling you what I think about the latest idea of lowering the driving age in the UAE.

Here in the UAE you have to be 18 to learn how to drive; in the UK it is 17. I know a few 17 year olds and the thought of getting into a car with any of them makes we want to set myself alight and jump out of a window. My friends and former colleagues will tell you that I go everywhere flat out, and when I was 17 I was what you would describe as a “little shit.” I passed my test when I was 17 years and 4 months old and on my first day waking up a man I offered to drive my sisters to school. A 1992 1.4 litre Vauxhall Astra estate is a beast that great men still struggle to tame to this day, so when I returned home some 15 minutes after setting off, the bonnet, grille and headlights had gone.

An old family photo of me aged 17 in my old Astra.

An old family photo of me aged 17 in my old Astra.

Yep, I crashed. Into a parked BMW, and drove off. Yikes. By the grace of God my Dad managed to get me off Scott free, but since that time the slow motion replay of me sliding into the back of that navy Beemer forever burns in my mind. Had I not had that crash who knows what may have happened later on, it was, in hindsight, a right of passage. I had discovered the limits early on and that instantly made me a better driver. I was, as a matter of fact, Steve McQueen in my Astra Mustang.

But, and despite next weeks blog that says the total opposite, the driving in the UK is inherently good. We have had 3-4 generations that have dealt with the wheeled beasts and the perils are well-known. Here in the UAE the situation is very different and I doubt very much that people younger than 18 will be of much use. The idea behind the whole thing, apparently, is to relieve the burden from poor old mum and dad. Johnny Teenager would be able to drive a car, with a chaperone, to run errands for his parents. He could do the groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, take little sister to dance practice or cruise around the streets at 3am, sideways, and on fire.

But who would the chaperone be, exactly? Mum or dad? Doesn’t that negate the whole thing in the first place? Will a special man with a moustache have to be employed solely as a watchman? Surely it wouldn’t be Jimmy Land Cruiser from over the road? That lunatic is always getting into pickles.

No matter, each car will be fitted with a speed control device that limits the cars capability. Such technology is very simple. You have a device that cuts the spark to the spark plugs, therefore lowering the speed of the engine. But the pistons keep pumping and fuel keeps pouring into the cylinder, so it carbons up and the engine, before too long, will need an expensive overhaul. The reality though is that Johnny Teenager will simply go and borrow his mates Skyline GTR instead.

Where I think we should cut the youths some slack is on the statistics front. I love it when people don’t think about what they’re publishing, and when it was said that 53% of all road accidents are caused by people aged between 18 and 40, it openly implies that 47% of accidents are caused by people aged 41-70. That seems fairly even to me, 100% of people are attributed to road accidents…

Of course the insurance companies won’t want to know. I had to pay £1600 in 2002 for my first full-years insurance; for a 1.4 litre Vauxhall Astra. What would a UAE premium be for a 15 year old in a Lamborghini Gallardo? Seven trillion dirhams?

Mum and dad, I’m afraid, will have to rely on the servants and personal drivers to continue to carry out the errands for now. Johnny Teenager needs to study and reach puberty before he is given the keys to the Ferrari 430. I can kind of see the idea behind this scheme, but then, I really can’t put it into words, either. Everyone has a crash at some point in their lives, and to get it over and done with early on may not be such a bad thing. I am, however, fairly sure that lowering the age below 18 in the UAE would be a disaster and I think back to when I was 17…

…Thank God I crashed on day one, otherwise who knows how dangerous I could have been?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,