Monday, December 8, 2008

Please allow me to introduce myself...

THIS is Snorkel Car:

A few of you have wondered what we have done since the Patrol is in the shop. (It is to remain in the shop as we have to wait for the Eid al Adha holidays to be over and a new fuel pump to come in.) Well, Mike had this little beauty up his sleeve. It's a Land Rover Defender 90. When we got the Patrol (christened "Bird Car" by Thomas for the falcon on the wheel cover), we got in good with the locals. Several times notes have been left on the windshield in parking lots:"If you want to sell this I will give you cash RIGHT NOW."

Now that we have our second vehicle, Arabs in their checkered headdresses are coming over to ask "Is this your car?" and shake Mike's hand, looking it over, telling him what a great car it is. It has turbo, a suspension like Jell-o, (it's bouncy and squishy) and is supremely engineered to deal with driving off-road.

And yes, it has a snorkel. A real snorkel.

No, I'm serious, this is not a joke; that thing on the passenger side of the windshield is designed to take in air for the engine in case we should, say, mostly submerge our car in water. Like in a wadi, for instance. As you can see, the passengers would be submarining underwater before the engine would cut out.

Tell me that's not cool.

Snorkel Car runs on diesel, and in Abu Dhabi Mike had to acquire a special card to allow him to purchase fuel. (It is so cheap here, people were stockpiling, so they had to find a way to regulate it.) On empty, and late at night after a long day of work, he went to the petrol station. First he had to convince the clerks that he couldn't wait until tomorrow to get diesel, even though they were busy and didn't want to take the time from the other customers to fill out the paperwork. (There is always paperwork.) Then he had to go get in line with all the trucks waiting to fuel up.

Upon seeing him, one local told Mike that he should go over to the regular pump station to fill up. No, Mike told him, I was sent here. The local marched Mike over to the first set of pumps, realised that yes indeed, Mike would have to wait in line with the trucks, then, as the line moved, he and his buddy cut Mike in. "Hurry hurry!" urging him into the empty spot in line.

This is not the usual way of things. This car ROCKS.

The expat who sold Snorkel Car to us was nearly choking up over selling "his baby". He not only has gear for practically every eventuality, he even had a box of Land Rover magazines for the connoisseur. Mike was very pleased with himself, and rightly so.

Please understand that this car is utterly unsuitable for what we need. It is not fast. It is loud, and not exactly a luxury sedan.

When we were driving through the flooded streets the other day (on the way to a 3 year old's birthday party) we unwittingly drove through sewer water, which came up through the vents in the front. You can imagine. The stench and ew factor were quite high. Fortunately only the parents in the front got it, and we made liberal and immediate use of perfumed baby wipes.

It doesn't matter. I encouraged Mike to buy Snorkel Car Defender because we're here, among other reasons, to have fun. Plus he's 40, what the heck.

One of Mike's co-workers is ex-Special Forces for the US military. When Mike showed up at work with the Defender this soldier said "Well, you've done it. I am jealous." Practically wiping a nostalgic tear from his eye, he reminisced "The last time I was in one of these I was with British forces coming out of Baghdad. There was a machine gun mounted right here."

Even I have gotten a little taste of the macho glory. After the Predictor Run, Adel Kfoory, a fellow runner from Egypt, was walking with Cathy and me back to the car. He asked if I was driving "the Beast."

Oh, yes, I answered, and he began to tell Cathy about me showing up in the big Patrol. Oh, no, I said, now we have a new car. There were four cars in the general direction of where we were going. He looked. He threw up his hands.

"NOT the Land Rover?" he exclaimed in delighted disbelief.

Oh yes, I told him.

Oh yes.

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