Not that I consider driving in Lebanon boring, but I am excited that our beloved government has recently made sure that it would be an overly joyful “ride”. It seems that Lebanon is experiencing an “invasion of the matabbet”, i.e. speed bumps. In the streets of Beirut as well as Mount Lebanon (not sure about the South, North, or Bekaa) you will “see” (that is if they are properly marked, i.e. painted in yellow and black, which is not the case most of the time)/feel an overload of those (among other things, such as pot holes, the horrible smell from the blocking and overflowing of the sewage system, and so on). Now I actually do like the idea of having speed bumps at certain places, but this does not mean that there should be one on every street, and certainly not at any random location! The problem is that, this is exactly what has been happening. One of my favourite speed bumps (that I pass at least twice every day) is located on a very “strong” and uphill curb, which means that you would really not see what is coming up in front of you (e.g. speed bump) as you are making the turn! This of course increases the possibility of having traffic accidents, since hitting the brakes really hard is never a good thing, especially when it is raining (seen cars slipping and going off to the other side of the traffic all too many times). Now if only it ended there! But no it doesn’t. The government (well, municipalities) seem[s] to find the task of putting these speed bumps and removing them (mark my words, some have been removed and placed back again at the SAME location more than THREE TIMES) fun/exciting and of course not a waste of money at all. After all, this is done “li maslahat al muwatin” (for the good of the citizen). And the citizens of course fold their hands and parrot “it is for the good of the citizen”. Some are brave enough to criticize Pierre Hishesh for running against Pierre Dikkesh in the Baabda elections. For example, one guy says: “all that he did is to cost the state so much money (ours) in order to prepare elections”, but find the current state of road affairs fun (I do too, but I suppose I have a natural talent and inclination for complaining).
There are also few traffic lights outside the city centre. There is, for example, one at Antelias (near Cinema Empire / St. Elie Centre), but it is always on “yellow” (caution) and in its place there is a traffic policeman. As for the ones in the city centre and surroundings, most of them have lately been on blinking “yellow” as well. One of the ones that are not, however, is actually not available. I mean, the pole is there, but not the actual box that has the lights on it. A truck hit it about a month ago (I witnessed it – I do have a tendency to be at the wrong place at the wrong time). Another thing is the inconsisency in the traffic light system. In some places there are two traffic lights, one before the intersection (not high up) and one after it (high up). Click on the photo to see what I mean. In other places there is only one before the intersection (i.e. where you’re supposed to stop). The problem is that people have this stupid tendency to stop on the area of the asphalt (painted in white) that is supposed to be for pedestrians, so they actually cannot see the traffic light (which would be behind or at the same level as the driver)!!! The Lebanese of course being creative, have found a solution to this. The car behind you (the driver of which would be able to see the light) would surely honk for you to “go”! Fascinating.
And lanes? Who on earth needs lanes? Lanes are like … soooooo …. history. And of course, you can drive on 10 km / hr on the “highway” (if you can call it that) while talking on your cell phone (and using your hands during a heated debate on the phone, without actually caring that you’re moving in zig-zags on the “highway” and leaving the people behind you confused as to which way to go to “pass” you), and that will be soooo natural. Of course.
Driving in Lebanon is unique. To have a smooth ride home (that does not exclude encounters with “road raged” people, 5km/hr-there’s-no-one-else-on-the-road-except-me-people, and other fun surprises) you will need as good a memory as possible in order to memorize the “landmarks” (i.e. potholes) on roads and take steps in advance to avoid them. In some areas that are lucky to be graced with street lights, the lights are on in the morning, off at night… And if you’re thinking of having your side window down, make sure the car in front of you is not letting off DDT. And of course, always watch out for cars whose brake lights are not functional. The Lebanese have a great sense of humour (I wish I could learn from them, but it seems that excessive inhalation of poisionous gases let off by cars has permanently crippled my ability to laugh at all the “silly little things” that I mentioned; some will say that there is more to life than whining about road conditions. I say, all the more life to these people [hopefully they are not subjected to the same amount of poisionous gas as I am on a daily basis, because that would severely shorten their life span and we wouldn’t want those jolly folk to die off – Lebanon depends on them for its survival and continuation in its path of glory]). They would dismiss all these by saying “bassita!” (it’s OK!) or “shu 3aleyh?” (what’s wrong with that?).