Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rage Against the (Silver Four-Door) Machine

I have already expounded on the parking abilities (I use that word deliberately as the word disability is no longer p.c.) of the indigenous folk and for fear of looking like a complete Moroccan-basher, I have refrained from further discussing their driving 'techniques'. But today I was nearly killed by a car so I don't fucking care who I may offend.

It is a fact of life that Moroccans pretty much make up road rules as its suits them: they view traffic lights as suggestions, consider speed limits discretionary, invent multiple lanes where one exists, make left turns from the farthest right lane, careen around corners with complete disregard for the bipedal variety of soon-to-be roadkill (those of us foolish enough to leave the safety of the sidewalks), and drive onto the sidewalks (to mock the rest of us) looking for a primo parking spot - but this is small beer. I have had near misses pretty much every other day since I've been here. My hide has become thick - or at least thicker.

But everything has changed.

This morning as I was walking to my French tutor's apartment, I was in a decidedly bad humour. Halfway to his home, I had already received 3 lewd comments, 2 wolf whistles, and watched in disgust as a driver nearly plowed into a parked vehicle while rubbernecking at me. On good days, this puerile behaviour rankles, on bad days it infuriates me. As I debated introducing a vivid discussion in class on the vagaries of Moroccan men (specificially why their disrespect towards women and rampant lasciviousness remains unchecked), I made a near fatal error. I elected to cross a street. Stupid stupid stupid Cat in Rabat!

This two-lane street was rather wide, and because of the time of day, nearly deserted; in fact, there was only 1 car on the far side of the nearest intersection. Even walking kitty-corner, I had more than enough time to cross safely. As I stepped into the street, I heard the car accelerate. I looked up in time to see the car bearing down on me. I began to run and as I did so, I realised that the car was not just speeding but speeding towards me: it had changed lanes. The driver of the vehicle actually steered into what would be the lane for oncoming traffic. Panicking, I lunged for the sidewalk and as I did, I fell - not unlike a 3rd base runner diving for home base. As I hit the sidewalk, the car swooshed by, taking with it the umbrella which I had been holding for a few meters - he was that close to me. The car stopped. I looked at it in disbelief, swearing a colourful streak of azure blue.

The driver looked out of his window and laughed at me.

Shaken, I continued to my French class where I cried like an imbecile. My colleagues would later ask why I didn't go to the police, but I hadn't had the wherewithal to note down the licence plate number. Perhaps that's why the driver stuck his head out of the window - not to just to ridicule me or to see if I was alive but to ensure that I wasn't going to report him. If I had, perhaps he would have shifted into reverse and pummelled me into luncheon meat. My boss opined that even if I had reported the fuckhead, nothing would have been done about it - at best, I may have received lip service to placate me. I fear he is correct.

What has shaken me the most from this experience, besides envisioning a lengthy stay in Avicenne Hospital (somewhat reminiscent of a Stalin-era KGB headquarters) or a lengthy stay in another astral dimension, was the complete absence of a motive. Why did the driver bear down on me? - for kicks? I guess so. Playing chicken with higher stakes? Maybe. The odd thing is that I could've accepted it if he had "just" been a typical reckless driver, if he hadn't seen me, if he hadn't been paying attention. But this was deliberate. And to suggest that this hasn't coloured how I feel about Morocco would be the mother of all lies. Not surprisingly, my decidedly bad humour of 11 hours ago continues unabated. But I will correct a comment I made earlier: today I wasn't nearly killed by a car, I was nearly killed by a driver.

11 Comments:

Blogger knarf said...

I feel horrible for you, CiR. That sort of experience can literally scar for life. I hope you're get over it soon.

One point that I'd take issue with is your last sentence. You were in fact almost killed by a car. Cars are evil. They can turn the most mild-mannered of people into monsters. Take the nicest guy, stick him behind the wheels with 200 horses under his right foot, and he suddenly becomes a man with power.

I'm not saying it's this way with all people - luckily that's not the case, but I swear it does happen. In the same way, there are some who become violent when using alcohol - they may be in the minority, but they do exist in sufficient numbers to be a huge concern.

As you know, I was a bike messenger here in Toronto for almost 10 years. I had people aim their cars at me (on purpose) several times per year. I'd done nothing more than claim the space in the road to which I was entitled, yet they felt the need to yell at me to get off the road, squeeze me onto the sidewalk, and on more than one occasion, come at me head on, only to swerve at the last minute.

The most recent time that happened, I was (I'll admit)going the wrong way on a one way street. The car coming toward me squeezed me into the gutter, even though it was a two lane street and he plenty of room to get by me. I slammed the side of his car with my fist, just to let him know I was there and pissed off. He slams on his brakes and jumps out. I yelled at him, asking him why the fuck he tried to ram me. He said "you were going the wrong way."

"What, for that you try to KILL ME? When did going the wrong way become a capital offense? When did you become a judge? What gives you the right to aim your car at me?"

"You shouldn't be going the wrong way down a one-way street," was all he could say.

Now I'm sure this guy, when not in his big mutherfucker SUV is the nicest family man you'd want to meet. But, something about getting behind the wheel transformed him.

Now, I don't know what the asshole that almost killed you is like when he's not in his car. And, no doubt the type of "car culture" that seems to exist in Rabat no doubt fuels his maniacal tendencies, but don't discount the possibility that it is in fact automobiles that are part of the problem. They aren't just benign, neutral, inanimate objects.

-knarf the bike-guy who's still recuperating from the broken collarbone (broken in two places) suffered at the hands of a car (who was in the wrong and so charged)

2:29 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

You're absolutely right - I merely altered my phrasing because this appeared (to me at least) as a deliberate act. I agree with you on every point: a car can change one's psyche, of which road rage is one example. I too was nearly clipped by a car going through a crosswalk (in TO) and slammed my umbrella (apparently a recurrent theme) on the trunk of his car. In other words, it brought out the worst in me too - a pedestrian just trying to cross a street legally. I am not anti-car per se, as I think that you are not: they have their uses.

Having said that, I live in a country that, like many developing nations, has received the technological end-result of a process that took decades to develop. Morocco became a car nation more or less overnight and has inherited its problems without having the time and experience & to work them through for themselves - growing pains as it were. For example, in 1921, 1 out of 14 Americans owned cars. That's an astounding statistic. But the corollary is that the US has had 85 years to consider & experience the problems predicated to car ownership - from challenges in civil planning to the rights of pedestrian. I'm not implying that we in the West are exemplary drivers or that our roads are safer. Or maybe I am.

3:09 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Whatever your implications may or may not be, like you, I'm not entirely anti-car, but I think I am moreso than most people.

As you did when you lived in Toronto, I don't own a car, and actually feel quite liberated by it. Liberated by no insurance premiums, maintenance costs, fretting about gas prices, car payments, etc, etc, etc (private joke...).

Not owning a car allows me to live quite well on a modest salary.

I can also live my life knowing that I'm not polluting as much as those who own cars and use them for trips to the corner store 4 times a day.

None of this has anything to do with the pain that you're currently feeling. I hope you're not too badly bruised, and I hope that your anger subsides (probably the bruises will heal before your emotional scars).

Thinking of you...

3:57 p.m.  
Anonymous Angel Fish said...

And it is not just the crazy/inconsiderate drivers, but also the crazy/inconsiderate pedestrians who have not been taught from toddlerhood to look both ways before crossing the street [on the theory that if a pedestrian doesn't make eye contact with a driver, they don't have to acknowledge the car's existence.] As both a driver and a pedestrian in Morocco, I've had countless near misses, and either way it does a number on my psyche.

but the guy laughing at you was particularly cruel.

4:01 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Sorry, Angelfish, but it ~is~ just cars.

If a pedestrian steps out without looking and gets hit, that's their fault. Likely, the car driver won't be hurt, and it's likely there won't be any more than a scratch on their car.

No big deal.

When cars choose to drive like idiots, innocent pedestrians get killed.

That's the difference. Careless pedestrian = scratch on innocent car. Careless driver = badly injured or killed innocent pedestrian/cyclist.

I agree with you that some pedestrians do cross streets showing little care for their personal safety. As a cyclist, I had daily confrontations with walkers who stepped into the roadway before looking for traffic - of course bikes ride to the right of the street, so they were stepping directly in front of me. I called it "The Two Step-Look".

So, while I agree that shoddy walkers may be a problem, it's not nearly of the same magnitude as shoddy drivers. They ~kill~ people.

5:09 p.m.  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

Knarf, I have to disagree with you a little bit again. I can't count the number of times my husband has had to swerve wildly when a pedestrian has wandered out onto the street/road in front of him. Where we live, sometimes swerves can lead to rolling right down the side of a cliff. Other times, we could have swerved into oncoming traffic, etc... Luckily, DH is an excellent defensive driver, having grown up here in lovely Morocco. All I'm saying is that pedestrians who don't pay attention can be just as capable of causing death and injury.

That said, Cat, I'm so sorry that happened. Actually, I'm furious. If you could recognize the guy, I'd be willing to hang around the same street with you in the hopes of finding his miserable ass and kicking the shit out of him. And allow me the pleasure of walking with you to your French tutor sometime - I know some really horrible words/phrases in Darija. Like you, I'm to the point where I'm sick of putting up with Moroccan male bullshit. (Ask my husband about my rock-throwing incident!)

5:48 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:04 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

liosliath,

You're right.

I stand corrected.

cheers, etc...

6:19 p.m.  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

Mr. Knarf, you are a prince among men, and I say that without the slightest hint of sarcasm. Since I've moved here, it's been ages since someone of the male gender (other than my dear husband) acknowledged me as capable of intelligent thoughts, much less admitted that I was possibly right about something... well, frankly, I'm touched. Thank you.

11:27 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

liosliath,

Firstly, I dispute your statement. I'm hardly a prince among men.

That being said, I took the Personal DNA test that C in R posted yesterday. Among its "findings" was that my "masculinity" is 52, and my "femininity" is 66".

I have no idea what they mean by those terms. I mean, I drink, fart and belch with the best of them. Look at my photo and tell me I look "feminine". Whatever the case, if they're right, it could explain any differences between me and your local male population.

You go, sister!!

-knarf

12:57 p.m.  
Anonymous Angel Fish said...

Another part of the dangerous pedestrian issue is that I don't want to bear the trauma of killing one, even if it is their fault. Seeing a dead body under a car here is not something I want to participate in. It may only leave a scratch on my car, but not on my heart.

5:44 p.m.  

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