Thursday, January 10, 2008

Car Stories- Part 1

My rental car arrived my second night here- a little white 07 or 08 Chevy Optra (apparently it's equivalent in Mexico was the Chevy Cavalier). 8,700 km on it- I'm suppose to turn it in for a check-up at 10,000 km. (I could have sprung for the SUV for an extra $500 US a month but my principles and pocket-book didn't like that). It was windy and cold the night they delivered it to my apartment steps (an hour late) and we were recovering from a cold dust-storm. Think windy (but not hurricane windy) and foggy- but that fog coats your car in dust and seeps into your apartment (because windows aren't water-tight; there is no need for them to be). A layer of dust is on most everything- everywhere. And this isn't sand-dust like in Saudi Arabia- this is more brown-soil style dust. I joked with the rental delivery guy that I should have requested a gray or tan car, because this one will be that the next day. (It's a good idea to keep a dust brush in your car to brush off the dust before driving. I'll get into car washing in a shopping post).

Back to driving- admittedly, I was worried that they trusted me to drive so soon. I had heard about the atrocious driving habits of Doha drivers and lots of talk of what to do when (not if, when) I had an accident. Being driven to my apartment and experiencing the roundabouts for the first time wasn't as scary as I feared; but then again, I wasn't driving. Being driven to campus the next day in the dust storm- things began to look alike and I mistakenly fixated on every-round about, trying to remember if I went straight ahead or turned. In reality, I should just count and remember the turns- not the straight-throughs. Having never experienced British or European roudabouts- I am no expert on how these compare- but I will say folks will not hesitate to cut you off. Driving for these first few times, I become a little nervous each time I approached a round-about (similar to when I was learning to drive and dreaded left turns- because they forced you to merge into the next lane). It's gotten better and I've only been honked at twice- but I still need to be careful and respect the dangers of the road (recent Peninsula article on the road situation in Doha).

They recently changed road laws here (as in Nov or so) and installed numerous cameras to catch speeding and red-light running. You probably won't be pulled over- rather the camera will catch your vehicle, record the license plate # and charge you. You can view your violations and pay online. Oh- and guess what? Supposedly you can't leave the country if you have any violations- so add that to a list of travel to-dos. I don't really speed much in America and tend to be one of the slower drivers here. However- I think the cameras and fines (I've heard in the thousands of riyals) have scared some other drivers into being law-abiding.

It's late again- I'll continue with my car adventures in another post.
مَعَ الّسَلامَ

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