Monday, March 15, 2010

Driving Miss Crazy

Monday, Dubai

As friends, family, and hapless travel companions know, I rarely shy away from adventure. Fly and boat along the Amazon into the middle of Nowhere, Peru? No problem. Climb Kilimanjaro? You betcha. Rent a car and circumnavigate Taiwan without reading a word of Chinese? Hey, why not? Fly to Tokyo for a long weekend with Jase? Absolutely !

I met my match here in Dubai. For some reason, I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to rent a car and drive myself around. Since we had lots of meetings scheduled and I had planned to see Didier who lives on the far outskirtsof town, and head down to Abu Dhabi to spend time with Phil, I (mis)calculated that it would be more economical and convenient to have my own wheels. Wrong.

The first signage I saw coming out of the airport should have sent me immediately back to car rental return: "Be Aware of Other's Faults". For good reason. We each have our own, indeed, but this was hardly a Muslim philosophical inquiry. More like a "caveat driver" or a Dantian reminder to "abandon hope, all ye who enter here".

These people are nuts ! The combo of drivers from dozens of nationalities, each with his idiosyncratic home country driving styles, poor and inaccurate road signage, bad maps, and frequently shifting roads due to construction, were enough to send me almost over the edge. It literally took me 20 minutes and a dozen wrong turns just to get out of the airport. Dumb luck finally got me onto Emirates Road toward my destination. A late night return to my hotel on Saturday eve was the clincher---I remembered where it was (sort of) but unfortunately there are 2 hotels of the same name in the Al Barsha district, and I kept getting directed to the wrong one. Five stomach churns later, I pulled into the dusty parking lot and vowed to return the car the next day. I did.

By the way, taxis in Dubai are plentiful, clean, inexpensive, with knowledgeable drivers. 30 minute expressway driving from airport to hotel cost me only $7.50. No more driving myself crazy......

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