Tag Archives: cars

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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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114. Horn

As you know, here at UAE Uncut headquarters we do like a good invention and we are also very fond of history.  Of all the species on Earth, man can lay claim to some of the greatest inventions in the entire history of the world.  What have those lazy badgers ever built?  Or those good for nothing whales?  Nothing, all they have ever done is exist solely to provide National Geographic with something to air when nothing else is on any of the good channels.

No, the human race is replete with iconic names of great men and women who have dreamt, designed and engineered everything you see around you, from the Kia Sportage you drove to work this morning to the zipper on your trousers.  Inventions are nothing new; we’ve been at it for years.  It started with some hairy cave dwellers making wheels, progressed a little bit when the Romans built the sword, horse and aqueduct, then kind of stayed fairly flat for a while until the Georgians built the regal wig.  Then, when the Victorians turned up we went on a roll.  All of a sudden we had steam locomotives, were able to harness electricity, talk to people over great distances with two cups and a piece of string and then the car came along.

Thomas Edison, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Archimedes of Syracuse, well ok, he was ancient Greek.  Oh, and Leonardo Da Vinci, he was before the Victorians, but I’ve discarded him because that code film he made was boring.  Ok, Edison was American, not a British Victorian, but, you know.  Yes I know that Brunel wasn’t an inventor but an Engineer… shut up and let me write.  Anyway the point is that the general public began to benefit from inventions for everyday use more so in the 19th Century than they did in any century previously.

Sadly, letting the public loose with wonderful inventions can have its own perils and tribulations.  Things get copied, broken, abused and of course misused.  For example, the hammer was invented as a tool so you could tap nails into things; it was not designed as a weapon.  DVD players were invented to play DVD’s and not to hold doors open and kettles were meant to boil water, not become part of a Tate Modern exhibit.  Then what about Apple?  They invent the same thing over and over again, just in different sizes, and we go out, buy them and pretend that they are phones.

As you would expect, then, there is one device that has completely lost its purpose in life, misused for decades and cursed by all mortals; the car horn.  Yes, the car horn was designed and intended for a purpose that very few alive today actually realise.  The history books sadly do not credit the individual mastermind behind the car horn, but its intentions however are clearly documented.

In the late 19th Century the amount of cars on the city roads began to increase; pathetic Austin Metro’s, horrible Austin Allegro’s and rubbish Austin Princess’s were everywhere.  Of course back then, particularly in London, the road was still for horses, carriages, pedestrians, market stalls and truant children.  The car – with its ferocious capability of being able to reach speeds in excess of 4 mph – needed a way of letting people know that it was coming.  As such each vehicle was fitted with a noise-making device that could be sounded whenever the driver approached a slow-trotting nag or an annoying pedestrian.  It was a warning that they were there and in all far better for everyone concerned.

Sadly, as mans arrogance began to surge throughout the 20th Century the use of the horn took on an array of different meanings.  Now we’re in the futuristic 21st Century it can also mean: “Get out of my way”, “I’m coming through”, “Oi”, “Look at me, look at me, look at me”, “I’m an idiot who lacks in the gentleman’s department”, “I don’t like you”, “Waiter, waiter!  I’m hungry, please bring me some diabetes”, “I like you very much indeed”, “Will you go out with me?”, “I like your car”, “I hate your face”, “You just cut me up on the roundabout”, “You’re driving too slowly”, “I’m in a rush, but not really, but I just want to get in front of you”, “You’re not doing anything wrong, I just really like my horn”, “Blast this infernal traffic”, “I’m showing my friends how badass I am” and of course “The traffic light is red, why are you still waiting there, motionless, for it to change to green?”

Most of you in the Western world – apart from those in Rome maybe – haven’t heard many of these horn meanings, but I assure you, in the UAE they are in plentiful supply.  There you are sitting at the red lights and the clown behind you in his Land Cruiser starts sounding the horn.  What does he expect you to do, mow the pedestrians down?  Then you’re sitting at a busy roundabout trying to pull out safely, waiting for a safe gap so you are not killed, and yep, there he is, Johnny Moron and his horn right behind you.

Lookit pal, it says right here on line 5, and I quote "thou shalt not use thee horn in an underground car park for 40 minutes."  That English bloke in the Hyundai will thump you...

Lookit pal, it says right here on line 5, and I quote “thou shalt not use thee horn in an underground car park for 40 minutes.” That English bloke in the Hyundai will thump you if you carry on…

Then you’re walking along the street and Johnny Lazy-ass pulls up in front of a restaurant.  You’d expect a normal person to get out of the car and go inside but no, the horn is sounded and a little man in red trousers and a rather fetching hat comes running out with a menu.  Later, you’re driving home waiting at the lights and the gomer alongside sounds the horn to get your attention.  You wind down your window and, after some alarming lip licking, he begins to pitch woo.  Then it’s late on a Thursday night and you’re off out for a beer.  Before you can walk into the hotel bar and have your ear drums turned into a fine dust you are subjected to a barrage of beeps and honks outside the hotel main entrance.  No, they’re not trying to attract the attention of the concierge; they’re trying to let you know that they can afford a Mercedes AMG and that you should be very, very impressed.  We’re not, mate.

I was in Dubai Mall on Monday night at closing, and I won’t lie, trying to leave the car park was a nightmare, it was backed up for miles.  That didn’t stop the ill-educated imbecile 3 cars ahead of me sounding the horn constantly for 40 solid minutes, relentlessly, without pause.  What did he think was going to happen?  Did he think Moses would show up and part the sea of cars?

There is no solution for this as far as I can tell.  The horn was invented as a warning to let those around know that you were there, now, it simply serves as a warning that you are near an idiot.

Why couldn’t man foresee the consequences of inventing something that causes such misery?

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100. Century

UAE Uncut thanks YOU! And the UAE, without the UAE this would just be a blank, pointless website.

Well, we did it.  We got to 100 blog columns.  In just 9 months I have strung together nearly 100,000 words about all things UAE.  When I first started ranting in my own little corner of cyberspace I envisaged posting one missive of thoughts each week.  Before she was launched, I scribbled down a few areas that I could cover in what is now called UAE Uncut.  I struggled, but I got as far as 23 subjects that I felt I could write about.  For a start I thought that that would be suitable; 23 weeks worth of guff that should cover 6 months.

But no, every morning I opened the paper there was something else that grabbed my attention that required instant ridicule or discussion.  Over the last 100 blogs we have examined many, many different things.  We have spoken of acrobatic plumbers who twirl and dance whilst installing boilers with boot laces.  We have identified that the Apple classes have too much money to spend on what is basically the same product as the one they are replacing.  Tables and chairs not making sense, music all sounding the same and the need to use the hot water tap for cold water and the cold water tap for hot water.  We have compared Emirates Road to communism and have identified the Toyota Land Cruiser as perhaps the greatest threat to mankind since the invention of the nuclear weapon.

Most of the writing I produce is rubbish.  Hatchet job scribbles with spurious connections laden full of poor factual references, sloppy explanations, flawed solutions and highly questionable conclusions.  But now and again sometimes a good one slips through the mill and makes its way through some cables to your computer.  These are usually the ones that do the worst on the stats page, unlike the rubbish ones, which seem to be the most popular.  It is clear, then, that I do not understand my target audience at all.

Every now and again I get to a stage when I think that I have bled the land dry in terms of subject matter.  In the same way that the UAE is worried about the oil running out, I am worried about the blog matter running out.

But no, all it takes is for a mad law to be passed that bans the use of air conditioning between noon and 3pm or for a story about a man who claims to the courts that he was tricked into mainlining heroin into his veins by some children, and bang, we’re back in the game.

Of course without my readers I would just be an angry man shouting at his laptop whenever the mood struck.  Yes I have offended a couple of people, but it’s not my fault that you’re thick and don’t understand irony.  The rest of you guys have been very loyal to UAE Uncut.  For that I am truly grateful.

So, then, 100 down…we’ve barely scratched the surface.

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52. Hot car

Damn you Fullard! The gloves did nothing… NOTHING!!!

In order to be respected in life, particularly when writing, one must do some research.  It’s no use flying off on mad tangents assuming everything because all you’re really doing is lying.  This of course means that the people reading your silly words will believe you, and more often than not that will make them do or say something that will be wrong or get them in trouble.

You have to know the facts and take most eventualities into consideration.  In some cases this is not easy, if you’re investigating a murder that goes right to the heart of government then there are going to be a couple of obstacles along the way.  But if you’re just writing a warm and fuzzy cut-out-and-keep guide to help people, then it’s imperative that you get it right.

This brings me neatly onto what I read in the paper today.  The publication was giving some top notch hints and tips on how to keep your car cool when parked during the summer.  My honest opinion?  Codswallop.  And here’s why…

The first point it makes is true, you shouldn’t enter the car straight away.  You want to turn it on for a minute first to get the air conditioning cracking.  But, in the next line it explains why you shouldn’t enter, and that reason is to let all the poisonous gasses and carbon dioxide out.  Poisonous gasses?  What poisonous gasses?  Hydrogen cyanide?  Our atmosphere contains 0.04% CO2 as standard, you can’t make it go away or the atmosphere will explode.  The real reason why you don’t get in is because it’s hotter than the fires of hell.

The next point that is made is encouraging you to break the law.  We are told that we should tint our windows to a minimum of 30%.  I see, so what about the UAE traffic law that clearly states that 30% is the maximum tint percentage allowed?  It goes further to say that you shouldn’t only tint the back windows, but the front ones as well as the windscreen… (!)  The plot thickens; most people in the UAE drive either hire cars or company cars.  The law specifically states that company registered cars may not have tinted windows at all, and you can’t exactly go modifying a hire car can you?  So instantly the article does not apply to 85% of the driving population.

We are also told that leather seats take 2 hours to cool down to room temperature.  Right, I disagree.  The car I primarily drive has leather seats, and even once I take the shade down and leave the air conditioning running for a moment it’s all fine.  I don’t intend on standing outside in the midday sun for 2 hours with the cars engine running to enjoy the luxury of a room temperature bottom.  It’s fine honestly.

The last tip is one I have – as your servant – just experimented with.  We are advised that when our cars are parked we should keep our windows wound down by 6 centimetres.  I tried this and when I went back 30 minutes later it was hotter than ever.  Invariably the warm outside air goes into one window, and…well it made it worse.  I also noticed that not only had the horrible hot air gone inside my car, but so to had half a dozen flies and a deserts worth of sand.  This is infuriating.  The fly is the most irritating pest on the face of the Earth, even more so then Kim Kardashian or one of those stupid Essex-show people, and the dust?  It was everywhere.  So now I have an even hotter car with a swarm of flies and a sand dune in it.

It may be noted that my experiment was conducted at home, with the car on the driveway.  What if I was parked in Dubai Harlem or Abu Dhabi Downtown Miami?  I’d have gained some Celsius’s and some flies, but would have lost my car radio, my CD’s, my phone charger, my laptop and probably the car altogether…  So I think we safely call that option “Plan B”.

So I’ve obliterated all the silly tips provided to you, but do I have an alternative?  Yes.  Just keep a pair of gloves in the glove-box to deal with the hot steering wheel.  And, most importantly, we’re in the UAE, expect it.

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31. Emirates Road

Every country in the entire world has that one road, that one road that is famous for any reason imaginable.  For example the USA has Route 66, a road that spans the width and breadth of the nation from Los Angeles to Chicago offering sublime views of the former colonies through every conceivable landscape.  Bolivia has The North Yungas Road – which literally translates into the The Road of Death…need I say any more?  The Britain Kingdom has the M25, perhaps the most horrible and grotty metropolitan orbital road in the all the world, famous for it general crapness and congestion.  The UAE has Emirates Road, the E11, a road that runs the length of the land from Ras Al Khaimah toAbu Dhabi.

Emirates Road is at its worst on the Dubai stretch between the E33 (the Al Ain-Dubai Road) and the Sharjah Border.  There are 7 lanes running both northbound and southbound, yet for some reason the vehicles that use the road seem to travel in many directions…either into each other or into the central reservation.  On their roofs.

Bring that road down Mr. Gorbachev, bring that road down

Emirates Road is a lot like Communism.  On paper and then in theory it all made sense.  A wonderful ideology that meant there would be equality, peace and efficiency for all eternity.  Sadly though, in practice it was fundamentally flawed and Karl Marx was left with egg on his face when it all went belly up and Mr. Gorbachev ended up bringing the wall down.  Communism relied solely on the people it controlled all understanding it and following its rules to the letter.  But this was wishful thinking as it is in mankind’s blood to strive for better things.  Inevitably then each man and woman will look after themselves to try to be better off…this goes against the very fabric of the Communist regime.

It is exactly like Emirates Road.  It was designed to allow equal and unhindered passage, so that Lorries, Trucks, Cars and Bikes could run side by side in the greatest show of unity in the history of the world.  But no, everyone wants to be at their destination first, they want to be the fastest vehicle on the road, everyone else is in inferior.  I don’t care if you have a baby on board, get out of my way before my 4×4 eats you.

I have never witnessed such reckless abandon on a single road in all my life.  Whenever my day requires me to traverse this tarmac river of misery I cringe and twist trying to get out of it.  It seems that whenever someone finds themselves on this road they lose their conscience.  They have no regard for the safety of others and if you get to the other end unscathed then you’ve done well.  I cannot a recall a single day where I have not heard of a report of an incident on the Radio.

The solution then?  Just like the Reagan Doctrine, join its opponents and don’t go there…let it destroy itself.

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28. Parking

In order for society to function correctly there needs to be a set of rules, there needs to be order.  There needs to be a government that

Left a bit...right a bit...just fold in the wing mirror will you...NO NO NO!!!!!! (Photo courtesy of Paul Granger Photography Ltd.)

doesn’t let the banks do as they please or bow to the pressure of the evil Trade Unions.  There is also a need for courtesy, the will to follow an unwritten code so that mankind can live together in perfect harmony.  Without rules you have anarchy, and as far as my research can prove there is no recorded case of anarchy ever prospering as an economically healthy or socially suitable model.

Look at Somalia as a case in point.  It hasn’t had a stable government since 1991 and as such some of its people like to take small boats out to sea to steal bigger boats and hide the crews in cupboards at gunpoint.  Back on land things aren’t much better as more horrendous crimes are committed each day than you can possibly imagine.  Society doesn’t even exist.  It is therefore safe to assume that Somalia is not going to be chosen to host the World Cup or the Olympics any time soon.

The UAE is the polar opposite of Somalia.  There are many laws, some of which contradict themselves and others that don’t really make any sense.  But nevertheless the laws are enforced when they are needed and as such crime levels are staggeringly low and the UAE is one of the safest places to live in the world as a result.  So that’s all well and good, but what about the rules that aren’t law?  How do they fair in this desert land?  Not well I’m afraid.

All this talk of international anthropology neatly brings me on to the matter of parking.  You can argue with me until you’re blue in the face but white road markings are rules.  They are painted in various locations to inform you that that particular place is a designated parking area and that it has X amount of spaces available.  Good stuff.  Furthermore the white lines indicate where your car should be located in the parking area.  If there are 50 spaces available then 50 cars shall fit.  If however just one person out the 50 fails to follow the instruction of the white lines and decides to straddle them then the remaining 48 cars will all follow suit, and the 49th shall be unable to park at all.

Big deal you say.  So one car out of 50 cant park in a row of bays because one berk can’t navigate between two thin stripes of paint?  Well what if that person needed to go to the bank to pay off a debt to avoid jail?  What if it was near a hospital and his wife was about to give birth?  What if it was you?

We are blessed in the UAE with such a selection of parking spaces and car parks, it’s a parkers dream.  With the exception of Wild Wadi which won’t allow any car inside that is bigger than a Micro Machine car parking couldn’t be easier.  All the bays are angled to make turning in as easy as possible and you are given lots of room to open your doors.  How is it then that people still get it so shoddily wrong?  How can they be that bad?  All cars have a rectangular footprint, all bays are essentially a quadrilateral too… the square goes in the square shape, not the circle…

I’ve got it!  I was procrastinating a bit there trying to come up with a solution, but in a flash of light…  We send the driving schools those toys where indeed you are given an assortment of different shapes and it is up to the user to deduce which hole in the box the shapes should fit into…this would then be a standard part of the driving test and anyone who tries continuously to make the triangle fit inside the octagon is obviously incapable of parking a vehicle and therefore shall fail his or her test…  These under-graduates will soon either come to realise what they are doing wrong and try to remedy the situation or give up altogether and society will be all the better for it…

And who knows?  Maybe one day the Olympics will come to the UAE?

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9. Taxis

As previously noted in this blog, taxis are a fundamental part of life in the UAE.  You will all be relieved to know that things have improved a great deal in the 4 years I’ve lived here.  Once upon a time to get into a taxi was to put your fate in the hands of a complete stranger; a stranger whose personal hygiene was as questionable as his ability to drive.  But it must be said that the UAE has done a good job in improving the experience and overall standards.  But there are still some drivers who fly under the radar of good, upstanding principles.

I use taxis a fair bit, primarily to take me to and from hotel bars; they are an important tool for me.  The other day I went for a beer.  The first step of the challenge was to acquire myself a taxi.  I stood by the main road near home and waited for about 5 minutes.  Like all roads in Al Ain there are 3 lanes on both sides.  I saw from afar that one of the old fashioned Toyota Corolla white and gold taxis was gently approaching on the inside lane.  I never ride in these, too many bad memories.  It’s all well and good reaching your destination quickly, but upside down and on fire?  He drove by politely in case he thought I hadn’t seen him.  No thanks mate, I’ll wait for a silver one.

No thanks mate, I'll get the next one...

Another few minutes past and in the outside lane a silver taxi appeared.  Obscured by heavy traffic I accepted that he a) wouldn’t see me and b) would be unable to get across to the inside lane and stop for me.  I was wrong.  He did see me; seconds later he was swerving across the road sending other cars and even a bus into all other directions, leaving a trail of twisted metal and fire in his wake.  I admired his passion for the job but entered the car with caution, fearing that he would drive off whilst I was still saddling up.

Once I was seated I told him my desired destination and went to fasten my seatbelt.  I had a belt, but unfortunately there was no clip.  We were already travelling at break neck speed, in the wrong lane, I was in too deep.  I had to think fast, faster than he was driving at least. I held on to the plastic handle above the rear passenger door with my right hand and positioned my left leg up against the front passenger seat, hoping it would hold in the event of a collision.  I had planned to use my left hand on the hand brake if the driver passed out; I had to consider all possibilities.  We careered around the first roundabout in the wrong lane, ducking and diving through the other cars, they were everywhere.  The horns; they were so loud.  He continued to floor it seemingly unaware of the carnage he was leaving behind.

As we reached warp speed I felt it was appropriate to begin reciting the Lord’s Prayer.  But there was no time.  I must have blacked out a little as we arrived at the hotel moments later.  I tried stabbing myself with a key to see if I was still alive.  I was.  It was truly a miracle.  Pale faced and quivering I handed Mad Max his small fee and exited the cab promptly.  I have seldom needed a beer that badly.

In hindsight I could have done more.  I could have told him to slow down for starters.  I could have got him to stop so I could get out and wait for another taxi, one with seatbelts.  I wondered what the journey in the white and gold old style taxi might have been like.  But after all I did arrive “safely” with lady luck firmly on my side.

I like to offer solutions or advice to my readers, after all that is the purpose of the blog (or so I like to believe).  So if you’re waiting for a taxi, and he approaches at a steady speed in the right lane and puts his hazard lights on before gently stopping, he will have seat belts and will provide you with a safe trip at a comfortable velocity.  If he swerves across three lanes causing a bus to explode then the odds are that the seatbelts have long since been cut out by firemen who tried to save the life of the previous passenger.  This added with the possibility of arriving at your destination sliding on the roof in a ball of flame will not make for a nice trip. You’re better off letting him go and waiting for another one.

Technically it should be silver.  But use your instincts…

 

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