Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cars & Coulrophobia

Just when I thought hoped that I had seen it all ....

The other day, as I was walking down Avenue Follow-the-Leader in Agdal, I passed a parked car - or rather, a car that had just pulled over to the curb. The car was one of those ubiquitous tiny white cars that you see careening about town - about the same size as a petit taxi and certainly smaller - for my non-Moroccan readers - than a 2-door Honda Civic hatchback, circa 1990. There seemed to be quite a bit of movement happening from within and then I realised that the tiny car's occupants were trying to extricate themselves from the vehicle. My curiosity was piqued so I looked closer.

There were 7 children and 3 adults in the car. Plus the driver. I counted. That makes 11, according to my reckoning. Eleven.

I stopped and stared. It is quite likely that my mouth gaped open. In fact, I would lay odds on it. Oddly, I had no compunction against such an open show of rudeness on my part, but then again, this morning I stole a magazine from my hairdresser's because I finally found a photo of a cut that I like. My standards are slipping shamelessly.

So, I watched as the adults and children indulged in some sort of vehicular limbo dance as bodies swerved, behinds slid over, and various body parts of several children were ejected from the windows. After a few minutes of this, a woman emerged and the tiny car went on its way.

Is it even worth my time to comment on the fact that I believe, even in Morocco, it is probably illegal for a car the size of Barbie's Mustang convertible to carry 11 individuals? Probably not. Childseats? Well, on the subject of the legality of installing (and using) childseats here, I haven't a clue: a cursory foray onto the web yielded no such legislation. If there is such a law (and I'd like to hope that there is), I haven't seen any safety seats in use, but then again, I don't tend to peer into cars unless I see 11 goddamn people intertwined within.

What really irked me is that it got me thinking about clowns. I don't like clowns. Well, not don't like exactly but really really hate them. Monkeys too but that's another post. So this freakish little car made me think about clowns and now I'm all in a dither because I really really hate clowns. And possibly afraid of them. There's even a name for it: an extreme fear (and I would add 'hatred') of clowns is known as coulrophobia. Try as I might, I can't make a connection to any childhood trauma that may have triggered such intense feelings in me, but I think it stems from the fact that I am an intelligent sentient human being and only really weird people like clowns.

Clowns are duplicitous by nature and generally maniacal in demeanour. In a word: creepy. What's lurking behind that greasy clown makeup besides big pores? - evil thoughts! And who the hell paints sad woebegone expressions and seeping tears on their faces? - people with deep-seated emotional problems. How will a weeping clown cheer me up? How is this entertaining? How, I ask you? I can't help but think of American serial killer extraordinaire John Gacy, who entertained children as a clown and spent many of his pre-execution hours drawing & painting said creatures. It is not surprising then that the evil clown motif is legion in Hollywood. So, imagine my delight to find that I am not alone (although my husband & brother share my fear/loathing): Ihate

Feel free to log onto the site and buy me a "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me" t-shirt. I'm a size small. Any colour but blue.

In the meantime, I can't seem to exorcise these clown visions from my febrile imagination. Evil evil clowns. All this because a couple of women with shit for brains had to risk their children's lives by cramming them into a car. And I had to see it. Jeeeeez.


Blogger knarf said...

All I have to say is:

The Greatest Show on Earth.

Jimmy Stewart's Clown, who never took off his makeup.


No one knew his name.



'Nuff said...

3:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once knew a guy whose wife dumped him for a clown from the Cirque du Soleil. He hated clowns...

10:56 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Before or after?

11:13 a.m.  
Anonymous malaika said...

Hmmm, I think its only illegal to hold a child under two in your lap in the front seat. As far as I know, it isn't illegal here to be carseatless. My kids are 1,2, and 4. In the US, they all would have to have carseats. Here, I only use two, sometimes one because that's all I can fit in my tiny eurocar. I've never been stopped. Once I did squeeze my friend and her 4 kids, plus my SIL and my 3 kids into my car for a pizza hut run. So that would be 9 people. Its disgusting how this country can corrupt a person...I'll do anything for pizza...well almost anything. ;-)

11:19 a.m.  
Anonymous malaika said...

ugh... not 9 people, 10 people.

11:21 a.m.  
Anonymous Sardine said...

Ahh, the age-old question of "What's a mother to do?":

Walk the 10 kilometres home with said children in tow, dodging the crazy drivers?

Stay in the house like a good girl?

Buy an SUV big enough to transport 11 people and knock off all the little cars jammed with too many people?

Hijack a bus?

2:21 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

birth control?

3:57 p.m.  
Blogger ByronB said...

Forget the children - I worry about transporting all my wives!

7:50 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Sardine: there were 3 adults. Make separate trips. Use a taxi. If you can afford gas, you can afford a taxi.

8:58 p.m.  
Blogger Ummu Kanz said...

Actually, my dear friend is forbidden to ride in a taxi...this was one of a few trips she gets to take out. Even if she could ride in a taxi, taking more than three in a taxi is one of the kids would have been left behind (probably the eldest who also never gets out poor thing). Taxi fare would have run at least 21 dhs total (there's a 7dh minimum in Casablanca) which I am sure my gas costs were no where near as much. But yes, we could have afforded the taxi fare. But why should we? We traveled the 1 km distance safely, enjoyed our pizza and returned out guests to their home.
1) SUVs in Morocco are prohibatively expensive (about 10g's more here than in the states)
2) Walking is too dangerous without sidewalks
3) I love my children and cherish each of them (obviously because I am not a beastly person) thus the birth control comment is highly offensive, though I am relieved to know 'knarf' is familiar with birth control.
4) I could stay holed up in my house, wallowing in the misery of being in this b-ass-ackwards country, but that would be the biggest crime.
Personally, sometimes its good to have a "when in Rome" type attitude...except for the truly heinous things like eating lamb-lung stew or cutting people in line like a neanderthal.

10:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

With all due respect Ummu Kanz, my suggestion was that the carload of passengers be split up between the car and 2 taxis. Your comment, "But yes, we could have afforded the taxi fare. But why should we? We traveled the 1 km distance safely, enjoyed our pizza and returned out guests to their home" makes me shudder. Why should you? - because you are endangering the lives of your children. There are reasons why there are child restraint laws in many many countries in this world. I cannot imagine risking anyone's life for a taxi fare (which in Rabat begins at 1.40 dh). Sorry. In my little world, you cannot win this one.

10:43 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can afford a car but don't see the need for a car seat, then you really shouldn't have kids.

Little people need protection!!! That's why humans, as opposed to other animals, hang on to their young for at least 18 years (or in Morocco 30 plus years). You've obviously never been to the emergency room here and I hope you never have to visit it. What do they say about the majority of accidents? They happen 7 km from home? And the only places worth going in Rabat are definitely in that radius. See earlier blog entry for insane drivers!

What really confuses me- why do some people think that just because they are in Morocco that they should break rules and do stupid things? Because you can? Nice education to pass on to the next generation.

11:10 p.m.  
Blogger Ummu Kanz said...

Its easy for you to say all this, as you haven't any children with you here (from all I've read) and you haven't attempted to travel with children and all of their trappings. I can guarentee you of one thing, however, I care a great deal more about the welfare of my children than you do. Obviously, whenever it is possible I restrain my children in the proper carseats, installed properly, and manufactured for the appropriate size.
Maybe it hasn't occured to you, but even if we had taken a taxi, there would have been no seatbelts and no carseats for most of the children, as these luxuries are not availible in taxis.
I have to say, when I originally read you blog, I felt that it was a very entertaining look at adjusting to life here. But more and more it just stikes me as downright judgemental. Which is interesting because the prophet Muhammed (saaw) used to say "when you point your finger, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself." So I am pointing my finger at you, saying "how self-righteous and sancrimonious is that?" and then I look at those three fingers pointing back. Because I do spend most of my time here criticizing and judging that which is foreign or not how its done back home. So I just wanted to thank you for making me realize what an ingrateful pain in the ass I am being these days.

11:14 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

With all due respect (again) Ummu Kanz, you have no idea what my marital or familial status is. Frankly, it is irrelevant. The same is true for those who comment on my blog. I reacted to a situation that I felt - and feel - is untenable: 11 people in a car. For the most part, those who have cared to leave a comment on my blog, agree with me. It is your right to disagree. But, for the record, I would be loathe to name-call my readers - even those with whom I disagree.

11:22 p.m.  
Blogger Ummu Kanz said...

"why do some people think that just because they are in Morocco that they should break rules and do stupid things?"

It isn't against the law here. So its not breaking a rule. As for stupid, some might say its stupid to strike so hot on an opinion about someone you do not know and something you probably, in reality, care very little about. Unless of course, you are some sort of carseat activist? If you are living here and Morocco and would like to save some children, perhaps would like the contact info of the local orphanage in your area? Because flaming me, in the name of protecting my extremely well-fed and doted on children is beyond ridiculous.
And yes I have been to an ER here, thought I had menangitus but thank God it was just a nasty cold...its actually quite swanky though..the one in Souissi built by that Emirate prince, I forget his name.

11:23 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Ummu Kanz-

I don't think anyone on this list doubts (least of all me) that you are a good mother and are concerned about their welfare more than anyone else (on this blog or otherwise). I was not referring to you specifically in my posting (you said you HAD car seats). Sorry if you thought otherwise

But living here is not an easy adjustment and the lack of access to goods and services and the lack of accountability can make us-all of us do things that we normally wouldn't- that's all. That's what is so frustrating. There is a veneer of sophistication here that makes us think it is not so different.

We've all been in that position and will be there again and when you find pizza good enough to make us think about it again, do let us know. I doubt that Cat in Rabat steals magazines from the hairdresser in her own country and can only hope she doesn't need a haircut over summer vacation.

Please don't assume we don't have children just because we don't blog about them. We're all just doing the best we can.

11:32 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

I would like to add that the magazine I stole was 4 years old and there were no photos of the king in it.

11:34 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This just proves that clowns -- even when you just WRITE about them -- are a dark and evil force. Do you see the discord that this has sown among you? It has nothing to do with the car seats, really, and everything to do with the spell of these evil circus freaks.

2:50 a.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Anonymous speaks the truth: beware the power of the evil clown!

8:01 a.m.  
Anonymous sardine said...

So what about the lack of seat belts in taxis? Should caring parents avoid bringing small children in taxis? Or should they carry the child restraint seat with them and install it into the taxi??? I guess they wouldn't have to pay for weight lifting classes then.
But given the amount of spewing black diesel smoke emitted by vehicles of all sizes on the streets of Rabat, does a really caring parent allow their children out of the house to breathe such foul air?

6:29 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Please bear in mind that my original diatribe referred to ELEVEN passengers in 1 small car. A taxi - even one without seatbelts - would be a lesser of 2 evils (although there are usually seatbelts in the front seat).

7:16 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Ummu Kanz,

How dare you!!

I happen to have children, who I love more than anything in the world. I resent your implication that JUST BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO BRING ~MORE~ CHILDREN INTO A STINKING CESSPOOL OF AN OVERPOPULATED WORLD that I'm not as good a parent as you are.

I'll tell you one thing, I'd never endanger their lives by letting them ride in a car without proper restraints in place (whether it's the law or not). You are showing yourself as placing your needs (ferrying them about) ahead of theirs (safety) by allowing your children into a car without all the proper safety and restraint devices in use.

There is no connection between how much a parent loves and cares for his/her children and the fact that some people wish to limit the size of their families.

BTW, I was being tongue in cheek with my earlier post. Glad to see that you have a sense of humour...

2:21 p.m.  
Blogger Ummu Kanz said...


OMG you are SO FUNNY! You accuse me of not having a sense of humor...but all I did was turn your "birth control" comment back around on you which was, as you put it yourself, tongue in cheek. And my how you got your knickers in a wad! Interesting eh? I guess people don't appreciate when strangers comment on their birth control practices or lack thereof.

9:38 a.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Ummu Kanz,

"I love my children and cherish each of them (obviously because I am not a beastly person) thus the birth control comment is highly offensive, though I am relieved to know 'knarf' is familiar with birth control."

Sorry that I didn't realize that the above quote of yours was tongue in cheek.

You clearly have a drier sense of humour than I do. Congratulations. :-)

12:28 p.m.  

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