Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Pair of Vehicular Vignettes

The other day it occurred to me that over the past seventeen months of blogging, I may not have said enough about Moroccan drivers; in fact, I've probably only scratched the surface of Morocco's road-borne iceburg. Although I'm unable of rectifying that gross oversight today (as I'm still under the weather), I do want to share with you, dear reader, two separate and unrelated incidents which I recently witnessed. Incidents, I might add, that although were unrelated by time and space, nonetheless both involved cars. So perhaps they were related after all.

The other day, Mr. Cat in Rabat and I were in a taxi speeding recklessly driving merrily from Hassan to Agdal when our driver began to slow down. As the road was not yet clogged with traffic, my mind raced between the two possible reasons for our diminished speed: either there had been an accident or our driver was being waved to the side of the road by a police officer in need of a new television set or braces for his kid's teeth. It was the former. Fortunately - if there can be a 'fortunately' in such a tale - the accident had already transpired and we were spared the horror of witnessing it. At one of Rabat's bizarre intersections where - traffic lights be damned - everyone believes that they have the right of way, where one merging turn lane magically transmogrifies into four, where u-turns are made as casually as one adjusts the volume of a car stereo, a car had hit a woman on a scooter.

Presumably the accident had just happened as the only official on the scene was the traffic island's not terribly effective traffic cop. If an ambulance had been dispatched, there was no visual or audible indication that it was on the way; instead, the cop was directing bystanders to lift the body of the woman and carry her to the grassy traffic island. Her body was twisted like a sourdough pretzel and her limbs were eerily bent and stiff as if she were still aboard her scooter. If she were still alive and if she hadn't sustained serious spinal injuries from the impact of the car or from her body hitting the pavement, she would probably be permanently crippled by having been so roughly hoisted by the (understandably) eager hands of her rescuers. I made a note to Mr. CinR that we should start wearing placards around our necks indicating that, in the event of an accident, only paramedics, trained health care professionals, or undertakers could touch our bodies.

We would have to wait a few hours for our second vehicular vignette and although thankfully no one was injured - indeed, this was no accident - it upset me far more than watching the aftermath of that morning's collision. As is our habit when we go to work, we turned up a side street - a narrow one-way street that, because delivery trucks routinely idle in the middle of the street and cars park along both sides, feebly and rather unsuccessfully tries to accommodate cars that race down it at breakneck speeds. Because this is a residential area, there are also pedestrians trying to cross the street, but this is not such an inconvenient thing for cars, as pedestrians apparently have no rights here and can expect no leeway from Morocco's drivers.

As we crossed the street we watched in disgust as yet another large Mercedes came barrelling down the street, hell-bent on getting to the corner as fast as the law of physics would allow. What a burden it must be to be just so busy and so important. But before the car would reach us, it would have to wait for another pair of pedestrians to clear its path. An ancient Methuselah of a man, crooked and bent over, was shuffling across the street, supported by both his daughter and a cane. The car bore down on the pair, and although the woman tried to hasten her father's steps, he couldn't hobble any faster. The driver's reaction? - he leaned on his horn. Honk honk honk - he wouldn't let up until the pair had yielded just enough room for him to squeeze by. Mr. CinR and I stopped and stared in disbelief. We stood our ground and made eye contact with the driver and, as he passed, I may have shouted something a little salty and gesticulated in a not very wholesome manner. His wife and kids just stared ahead; he met my stare with an equally withering gaze that clearly said fuck you.

The moral to the story? There isn't one. That's the joy of the vignette. Because it's a literary or visual description that illustrates the briefest of moments in time, its author doesn't have to be terribly insightful. Or in my case, lazy. Which suits me fine.


Anonymous The Lounsbury - l'Aqoul said...

Traffic lights be damned? My dear, you have not seen traffic lights be damned traffic yet. Rabat is positively civlised compared to most of Africa, to Libya, to Egypt.... Or Greece in many areas.

That being said, the rather poor application of traffic laws does indeed make the roads far deadlier than need be.

5:49 p.m.  
Blogger taamarbuuta said...

I was almost run over by a bus today.
I was almost run over buy a bus yesterday.
I was almost...

You get my point.

But, like Lounsbury said (or, um, didn't say), I thought ITALY was pretty horrendous.

8:32 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Let me pass on a little anecdote to you and your readers.

Yesterday, on my way to work, directly in front of St. Josephs Hospital (ironically) a minivan making a right hand turn on a red light pulled directly in front of me. I swerved and actually passed her.

As I pulled in front of her, I smacked my hand of my helmet, then pointed to my eyes and yelled "Take a look! I had the right of way, are you trying to kill me?" She saw my gestures, but didn't acknowledge them.

As she passed me, I stared at her; she gazed straight ahead.

She stopped at a red light at the next intersection. I pulled up next to her and stared at her again. Again, she stared straight ahead.

No apology. Nothing.

Last night as I rode to my girlfriend's, another car pulled out from a parking spot. I slammed my brakes on to avoid contact. A bike behind me came up to me and said, "you're invisible, you're a bike."

Why do I tell you this? I don't know. I'm not comparing what you saw to this - it just happened is all.

And it wasn't even a full moon.

I guess I'm just trying to commiserate - what you saw was horrendous on both counts...

3:47 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Knarf: so sorry to hear about your "incident". It's frustrating being part of the Invisible Mob of pedestrians & cyclists. Today Mr CinR had to - yet again - pull me back out of the path of an oncoming vehicle who had no intention of yielding to me. Need I add that I had the right of way? This proprietal attitude that drivers in Morocco have sets my teeth on edge.

5:27 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

The thing is, when these things happen (which they do on an all-too-regular basis), all I want is an acknowledgement and an apology.

That tells me that perhaps they'll look twice the next time, watch out for that hard-to-see bike or pedestrian.

The fixed stare-into-the-distance is a real turn-off, though. It tells me that they don't care, and that they won't do anything different the next time.

Sometimes I feel I might prefer getting the Big Honk like Mr. Mercedes Prick - at least that's an acknowledgement that I exist...

6:23 p.m.  
Anonymous ByronB said...

Pity the poor motorist!
Bedevilled by pedestrians stepping out at the drop of a hat without looking, cursed by cyclists weaving in and out of traffic impervious to road signs, harassed by other drivers who think your right of way and parking space belongs to them, and impoverished by rapacious government road taxes seldom spent on their eponymous purpose!
Shame on you all!

10:52 a.m.  

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