Lebanon, December 21, 2005
And we're talking traffic, not shopping
Do you feel that stop signs are suggestions vs. requirements? That stop lights are advisements vs. law? That one-way streets are too restrictive? Then you'd love Beirut driving. |
No rules, no though, all balls and bravery, Beiruties don't slow for stop signs, don't stop for stop lights, and find one-ways' disgusting instead of directional. Into any intersection, at anytime, they drive, not slowing for others, not even looking in your direction less they show a sign of weakness and be required to stop. If you stop, a chorus of honks erupt, people impatient and annoyed that you might respect a red instead of thinking green.
Maybe it's a result of the civil war, when kidnappings at red lights were common and snipers popped caps in stopped cars, maybe its just because they can, but Beiruties make driving a blood-boiling fear-inducing white-knuckled experience for anyone not used to the tight spaces and constant high-stakes game of chicken that automobiling requires in this small city.
And everyone drives here. There are no buses really, no public transport to talk of, and with a such a hilly city, its one car per person everywhere. Not only does this produce crippling gridlock, especially with the lack of road rules, there is a constant smell of exhaust hanging over the city. Exhaust that forms a backdrop of smog when the wind doesn't blow.
So do yourself a favor, get your boss to drive everywhere when you are here. If you're luck like me, and he's Egyptian, you'll be safe and happy, and he'll think he's home.