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JustHere | February 20, 2017

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Fender-bender friends

Kisara Yatiyawela

Just say ‘driving in Qatar’ out loud and see what happens. Here are a few words you will probably hear among the many phrases, opinions and cussing, which will definitely follow: ‘crazy,’ ‘ dangerous,’ ‘Land Cruiser.’

Newcomers and new drivers will be warned. Viral videos with SUVs on two wheels circling roundabouts at high speeds will be referred to. And local drivers (yep, in Cruisers) will get blamed. Young male species in thobes, in particular.

But seriously, are there no redeeming factors on roads here? No signs of hope? Nothing to smile about? Not one thing?

Sometime ago, when my mom was on a visit, she noticed something. In the middle of all the daily madness on streets, where fender benders are as common as roundabouts, she said, ‘that’s the second accident I saw this week.’ Didn’t warrant anything more than a ‘Mmmmmm’ from me.

Mom: Very strange.

Me: Nah…happens all the time. Especially getting hit from behind.

Mom: No, I mean, it’s strange how these gentlemen involved in the accident, stand peacefully beside their vehicles, smoking and talking like old friends, till the cops arrive, I suppose. The first time I thought they must have been friends, but can’t be. I just saw the same thing again.

Me: Oh! (in an Oprah’s Ah-ha moment-ish way!)

Mom was right. Ever since her observation, I notice them even more. These very same, heavily-accused men in thobes. Parked, chatting, waiting. No aggression, wearing their very local, ‘what’s the hurry?’ expressions.

These very same, heavily-accused men in thobes. Parked, chatting, waiting. No aggression, wearing their very local, ‘what’s the hurry?’ expressions.

I know there are exceptions… and many. Where things come to fisticuffs and more. But chances of seeing these ‘fender-bender friends’, who have met by accident, are fairly high.

The safety freak that I am, I am not minimising the dangers of accidents here in Qatar. Neither am I suggesting that a chat by the side of the road fixes all things. But with short tempers, wild accusations (think Chris Brown!) and road rage being the order of the day in lots of places around the world, it is refreshing to see some patience and friendliness on Qatar’s streets. With so much aggravation and complaining going around one must find a smile where one can get it, right?

After getting used to seeing these roadside chats, now I have a new hobby. Trying to guess what they are talking about. Morsi? The stock market? Roads are too full in Qatar? Who knows?!

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