Saturday, June 20, 2009
Chitty chitty bang bang...
One of the prizes garnered for the Dubai Road Runners Social was 20 children's tickets to the Dubai Dolphinarium. I handed then out to the first 20 kids to arrive which worked like a dream to get them and their parents to the event on time. Generally Dubai time runs a little...or a lot...late. The children and their parents all asked the same thing: "Are we in time? Are there any dolphin tickets left?"
I didn't hold back any of the tickets for my kids, but Cathy was nice enough to give us hers since her kids had already been. The first time the kids and I tried to use the tickets we didn't allow extra time for getting lost and I ended up continuing along Sheikh Zayed Road to the next emirate over and Sharjah Aquarium. The second time we circled like sharks, closer and closer until we finally saw a sign and were nearly there. Then, at a "T" intersection, another driver realised he was turning one turn too early for where he was trying to go and changed his direction to go across the top of the " T" exactly half a second too late.
I'd already entered the intersection from a stop and had turned my head to the right to make doubly sure I wasn't going to hit someone coming from the other direction in the lane I was entering. So I hit the guy who changed his mind and fishtailed in front of me instead. He almost got by...but not quite. Smash, boom, and shudder.
A moment to get our bearings and Thomas summed it up: "Naughty car!"
Bird Car, even from a dead standstill, was more than a match for a little work truck. We both pulled over, got out, and did the exam each others' vehicle dance. Admittedly, my bumper looked even more in danger of coming off that it had after dune bashing (when one can wiggle the front of a truck like a loose tooth it's not the best of indicators), but the side of his truckbed had a big ol' dent that couldn't be denied. Aw, heck.
I knew that there was no way a police officer would come to any conclusion but to give me the dreaded pink slip that says "your fault!" The other driver turned out to be a very sweet construction worker from India, and we had a nice chat until the Dubai police arrived. Thomas was screaming "I wanna go see the DOLPHINS!!!!" and Bethy was being irate on my behalf.
The Indian chap explained the the green-uniformed officer first...in Hindi...and then the cop turned the sides of his mouth down, looked at me and asked "and what do you say happened?"
I didn't even try to get out of it. No matter what, I was looking the wrong way at the wrong millisecond, and should I have convinced the cop it was the other guy's fault he probably would have been deported. Yep, failure to yield for me.
The policeman went back to his patrol vehicle (a BMW...most of the cop cars here are luxury vehicles...not a bad gig) and filled out the paperwork. He gave me the dreaded "your fault" pink slip, a fine slip (oh, dang!) no black points (phew!) and Bird Car's registration card back, but not my driver's license.
"Um, may I have my license back please?" I asked him.
"You may get it from Al Barsha. Pay your fine and you will get your license."
I thanked him (hey, we only had to wait half an hour for the police to arrive and nobody screamed at me this time!), made sure it was permissable to drive without the license (yes if you have that nasty little piece of paper which is only good for 10 days, after which there is no point in contemplating) apologised to and shook the hand of the other driver. He asked if it was a "problem" that I was found at fault, I told him that it was OK and I was glad no one was hurt. He looked gratified and took his correct turn onto the jobsite. I drove straight home, much to my dolphin-less kids' displeasure.
Nowhere on the ticket did it say how much it was for, in any language. I waited a few days and it popped up on the Dubai Police Website: 400AED. About $100. Not bad...but I was told, everything is negotiable in Dubai and to try and get it halved or thrown out. Others had done it.
I called to try and get out of at least part of the fine, and the fellow I talked to swore up and down that it has never been that way in Dubai. Uh-huh.
Al Barsha is not a fellow named Al who breaks kneecaps and collects for the mob, but an area of Dubai where I was supposed to pay the fine. I figured the officer had meant the traffic station, which is called the Bur Dubai Station (Bur Dubai is another area) and the traffic station is actually located in the Al Quoz area. Don't ask. You have to live here a year like we have to get things like this worked out.
I'd given enough time for my license to arrive before me. Thomas and I went in, and sure enough there was an enormous room stuffed full with disgruntled looking men waiting to pay their fines and, in some cases, get their cars released back to them.
I took a number from the dispenser. Number 404. A quick check above the windows. Now serving...numbers 288, 291, 292 and 293.
I was getting some looks from the men waiting. A lot of looks. Obviously my presence was...offensive? NOW what had I done?
Oh, yes, Middle East. Often not so good to be a woman, but every once in a while there's a real advantage: far over to the left, sequestered from the rest of the room, the ladies only line. With only one person waiting, and one person being helped. Ha.
20 minutes later I had paid in full, failing to get the fine reduced -the fellow pretended not to understand me, repeated 410 AED (they have a processing fee...of all the cheek!) twice then refused to meet my eyes or speak to me again. I simply can't outrude someone, I'm no good at it.
On the way out, 30 minutes after I'd taken my ticket, they were helping numbers 299, 301, 303, and 304.
I might have gotten out of there in 5 1/2 hours as a man, probably longer.
Some days, it's good to be a woman. Essentially, the thought process is that we need to be home taking care of the kids and don't have time to wait in lines or go to the Mosque 5 times a day.
Certainly I was happy not to be making Thomas wait any longer than necessary, though he'd done well, stroking the arm of the Lebanese looking woman seated next to him and saying. "This is my lady. This is my chocolate lady." She was utterly charmed and I began to think about putting him into a boys only school.
At work, they asked Mike to congratulate me on meeting my Quarterly accident quota and one of his bosses queried Mike, I hope jokingly, why he even lets me drive.
Mike earned his quarterly quota of husband points by saying I'd never gotten into an accident until we came to Dubai.
What a guy.
We still haven't been to see the dolphins yet.
At some point the front license plate fell off, so now we have to figure out how to get it replaced...