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Snarglefard - MrPutter: doing things the hard way, because it is there.
February 22nd, 2002
03:15 am
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Date:February 23rd, 2002 02:59 am (UTC)
Imagine this. You are in one of the most backward and undeveloped areas in the world. It is 99% desert, with a couple of thousand people wandering around in nomadic tribes, herding camels and planting dates. There is NOTHING of substance in the country. No paved roads, only 2 or 3 automobiles, owned by the British troops who have colonized the region. There is not so much as a permanent building in the country (the closest being a coral fort built by some self-styled ruler, surrounded by a couple dozen mud huts).

This is the UAE in 1962.

Now, someone discovers oil. And someone else pays you more money for it than has been in your country for the last three thousand years. You start producing and selling oil, and you get very very rich, very very fast.

You start building 8-lane freeways everywhere and everyone owns 3 Mercedes', 2 BMWs, a Ferrari and a Porsche.

Look at this! I can go 260 km/h! It takes me half an hour to go to a city which only 20 years ago was 3 days away by camel!

This is the UAE today.

And this is no exaggeration. Many people here learned to drive on camels, over sand dunes. There is no tradition of driving at all, let alone driving safely. They are just learning how to implement proper driving schools and tests and so on.

Combined with really expensive, really fast cars.

Combined with the fastest, best, state-of-the-art roads that money can buy.

Combined with the fact that UAE nationals (who are the ones with no driving experience) have infinite political clout, and the traffic police are usually imported workers from India or somewheres (because no National would stoop so low as to do such a menial job). So when they get stopped for speeding (or whatnot), the transaction goes something along the lines of:
- Salam A'lyakum. I'm sorry sir, but I have to give you this ticket.
- You will tear up this ticket now, or else you are going back to the slums of Kolkata tomorrow.
- Ok, sir, no problem.
- Good man.

Combined with the fact that there's no railways or anything, and material goods get moved from one place to another via a neverending convoys of semis driving along the highways (far far more than you'd ever see in Canada).

The driving standard here is utterly ATROCIOUS. You know how I drive when I'm in a "crazy" mood? This is the norm here, not the exception. Hell, this is the way you have to drive to avoid all the other obstacles (both moving and stationary) on the road.

If you drive on the fast lane of the freeway, and you are doing 160 in a 120 zone, you will stand a significant chance of getting rear-ended.

And I'm not bullshitting -- the death rate from motor vehicle accidents here is two orders of magnitude higher than the corresponding death rate in the US. No exaggeration. I've seen the statistics.

And you want to introduce bicycles to this mix? It's actually pretty suicidal to ride bikes on the road here. But I'll admit I've done it a few times. Although my intent is to mostly just ride around campus, which wouldn't be (as much of) a problem. And is legal, to boot (since it's private property).
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