Like many of my compadres I use the same roads every day in my day to day business, occasionally veering off that well-beaten track to drop, collect, dine, register, pay a fine, visit extended family or service my jalopy. By using the same roads most of the time one can become very familiar with the unique foibles and idiosyncrasies of other drivers, some of whom are as familiar as hot khubez and samboosas on movie night.
I am one of thousands who has to contend with a blessed bottleneck that requires a melding of two lanes into one and the resulting three-mile tailback at the hands of those who deem themselves too important to queue, those who realise too late they should be turning and the most insidious group, those who know they have to turn but have already decided that they’ll take advantage of the community’s generosity and turn in very late to a cacophonous chorus of objecting horns. Sometimes the late-comer will share pleasantries with the driver of the blocking car, who has obediently queued, in a flurry of lowered window banter and unique finger signals that immediately have us onlookers rooting for the blocker. Ultimately, the BMW trumps the Yaris and our courageous blocker has to give way, his day now thoroughly ruined.
Sometimes the interloper will be far too busy on his phone to have noticed the intercontinental tailback and will feign ignorance accompanied by thanks for a service yet to be offered in a spectacular display of social awareness that once again drains the paltry coffers of on-road generosity and depletes the collected rank and file of their thin veil of travel kindness.
Distances being relatively small here, the violated traveller will need time upon reaching their destination to cool off or share their abuse with a friend or colleague, who having suffered the same, will listen painstakingly to a lengthy description of exactly where it took place, why it is unacceptable, the physical repugnance of the perpetrator and the rich language that was exchanged through raised windows in silent movie style pointlessness, with accompanying embellishments of course. If the victim works in the customer services industry in any way, the first caller of the day is likely to be met with curt, sharp denial of their request, a flea in their ear and thus credit is bestowed unto the pool of national frustration, as, the caller is still sitting in traffic trying to make use of their life.
Nationality and perceived class are issues as well and it goes like this. Top of the pecking order are us Bahrainis, followed by other Gulf Arabs though not if their licence plates give away their origins. In that case it depends where in the Gulf they’re from and the frequency that we experience them and their driving on our roads. Next, white people. Remember I can’t hear you, rarely will I admit to seeing you, and so all I have to go on are visual cues. Following the whites come all other people of colour. Given this group’s diversity, the vehicle you’re in will determine my behaviour; if it’s a small car, sorry back of the queue but if it’s a six-wheel pick up or lorry my resentment boils at the effrontery and I’ll madly challenge you despite your ability to crush me like a gnat, because my status is trembling with faux injustice and it’s the most I can do to thinly hide my prejudice. All motorcyclists are nutters. The worst of this tribe have absurdly powerful rockets that they strap themselves to in regulation T-shirts and flip flops, only announcing their presence with fuel wasting revs that both shock and anger, as they scream past you on the hard shoulder, between lanes, on the pavement or wherever else their arrogance takes them. Not the Harley mob. They’re sad for a litany of middle-aged reasons too numerous to go into here that encompassed escapism, renewed youth, machismo, corporate sales genius and poor clothing choices. Dreams of the American heartland and dark desert highways, while waiting for the lights to change at the Burgerland roundabout. Really?
Next on our list of applicants for involuntary euthanasia are delivery motorcyclists who take their lives in their hands every day with a vigour and courage that would have us grey before the first junction; but by far the bravest contestants for ‘Ready Player One Bahrain’ are the cyclists who exude a tranquillity and aloofness that belies their predicament. Surely they know that their light cotton garments and flowing khamises are tempting every traffic God from Ford to Benz? How are they so chilled? Is it the intoxication of rhythmic pedalling that releases wave after wave of confidence building endorphins? Have they so surrendered to providence that Que sera sera? I applaud their madness and salute their serenity!
Special comment must be made for discourtesy. The conscious act of ignoring a kindness or service, offered through civic duty or personal responsibility, in the vain belief that one benevolent act has any impact on the body ignorant. Certain ladies have turned this into an art form.
Wary of their ‘wave of acknowledgement’ being misinterpreted to mean ‘I’m yours forever!’ some ladies have perfected wilful blindness and abject ignorance to such a degree that their very presence on the roads serves to vaporise any goodwill and increasingly their misinterpretation of communal decency galvanises the discourtesy upon, the absence of which, they rely.
Or perhaps it’s the distraction of three children bouncing around on the back seat that commands too much of their attention and catalyses the abandonment of their civility. Either way, I’m buying a bike.