Lurchers and Sliders

“The girls are back in town….” sang Thin Lizzy, except it was boys.  Anwyay, we ARE back in wonderful Dar es Salaam and I seem to have been noticing a lot of dodgy driving…

I always point out bad driving to my Tiny Treasure when we are in the car. I make helpful comments like; “Did you SEE that car suddenly lurch out from that junction?  I had my eye on it.  I THOUGHT he would wait until the last possible moment and then kangaroo hop right out in front of me. There isn’t a car behind me, so he should have waited.  In fact the road is EMPTY apart from us and him”.

My car is not scared of ANYONE except for new land cruisers that are built like tanks, driven as if they are minis and operated as if the driver has their eyes closed. I have a wonderful 15 year old Toyota Land Cruiser.  The fine details of the car rarely work, the air con, the windows, the water holder for the back wind screen wiper and the handle thingy to open the back. BUT it has a simply splendid engine, which is a marvellous feat of engineering.  It is so old that there are always spare parts for it, everywhere you go and there is not a computer or digital aspect to it anywhere.

Yesterday a MAHOOSIVE, GIANT, brand new, latest import, fuck off Land Cruiser swerved round the teeniest, tiniest puddle and nearly crashed into me at the end of my road.  There ARE puddles and there are puddles, if anyone has ever lived in the tropics with wet seasons will know. The dangerous kinds are the ones where there are huge potholes, which Toyota Corollas can get lost in for ever. Then there are ones which have 2mm of water.  The puddle I am talking about, was NOT the former hippo pool type, but the teeny weeny 2mm of water one.  The MAHOOSIVE, GIANT, brand new, latest import, fuck off Land Cruiser was THREE times as big as my car, which I think is big.  August is new car season in Dar es Salaam.  In addition to rich business men buying the latest and bringing them into the country, the other main purchaser of vehicles is the government.  Suddenly there are all these new and “even bigger than last year” 4 WD vehicles around.  They are usually bought for Ministers or senior civil servants and usually driven by an ancient minion whose driver skills have not kept pace with the beast they are given to cruise around in.  I’ve seen many drivers here, either the driver of a family – a staff member not a family member, or the actual owner of a car on thephone, swerving, ducking, diving, ignoring and ploughing into other road users.  My pet hate for years has been all the UN drivers with their equally huge, ginormous 4WDs.  They are the top of the driver food chain.  I have spotted a couple of them over the years who drive like bats out of hell, mostly when they don’t have children in the car.  At least that is something.   I know to avoid the latest shiny toys on the road, especially if they are begin driven at speed while someone is on their mobile.

Back to our incident and away from my general rant for other people’s own good. My dogs ALL barked as I had to do an emergency stop and veer off the road.  Usually Eileen and Rebecca never bark in the car, BUT on this occasion they got a terrible fright when they both hurtled off their respective seats on to the floor of the car.  TT wasn’t with me fortunately.  Picasso my male dog was incandescent.  The monster vehicle didn’t even stop, I swear the driver didn’t even notice.

Generally I think having a driving license is a good thing, particularly if it signifies that there was some sort of programme of LEARNING before an actual real live TEST.  I think that is preferable to buying it over the counter and then being let loose to reek havoc with a dangerous weapon.  There are many more deaths on the roads than homicides.  Bloody media hypes everything up to have us think we are all going to die a violent death at the hands of an evil axe murderer.  BUT NO, it’s really unlikely.

The other type of bad driving at junctions I have educated TT about is the “slider”.   Now that is the driver who slows down, looks but never actually, as such STOPS…and just keeps driving as if they are somehow invisible.  They just inch out, and choose the lurch method for the last few metres right in front of another car. I tend to see this manouvre in operation mostly when the road is empty. Personally I find the “stop and wait for the cars to pass” method has served me quite well over the years, but there we go.

I do have to confess though that last week I DID catch myself actually performing the very same move I criticise others for doing.  Yes, a sudden lurch out from a junction turning right, in front of a car which had to brake suddenly.   I can’t believe I did it. I was late and rushing to collect TT from a class in order to take her to the Theatre.  Not only did I lurch dangerously, I was also heading smartly off in the wrong direction, so I never needed to turn right at all.  A simple easy left was all that was required.

What can I say – Brain Fog obviously.  I have been suffering from that quite a lot these days…

I promise I’m not usually dangerous.  I DO love driving in Dar es Salaam in July and August as so many people are away.  It reminds me of the days when we first came here in 2006. There was no tarmac and no car parks and you could just do the car “abandonment method” of parking.  Turn, (possibly miss the kerb), stop, turn the engine off, get out and walk away from the car. Of course you could just start at the stop, turn engine off bit as well as you often didn’t need to even turn.

There were no fucking lines with uber-small spaces, all too small for these great big 4 wheel drive cars still around but which you actually did need back then.  I can’t get into most of the car park spots now, I simply don’t have the patience to do the 450 point turn to get my big girl in.  Unless I can just swing in and stop, it’s not for me. I am always in trouble from some guard or other telling me that I am 10 cm out.  This makes my tits get in even more of a tangle, as most of the guards are about half my age and DON’T drive.  I am convinced that it is all part of the male conspiracy as I do note that male drivers do not get told off nearly as much as me.  I think fondly back to my Namibia days when I could park and go in gay abandon anywhere, anytime.  Those were the days…

I remember collecting my father from the airport here once about 6 years ago.  It was night time and the airport was really quiet.  I had parked between the lines as I was the only car within 100 metres either way.  When we got back to the car, I had been clamped.  Now this is the first and only time I have ever heard of ANYONE getting clamped in the WHOLE of TANZANIA.   Two young chaps came bounding over to us, their eyes alight with opportunity.  I was playing it very cool as my father was potentially about to get very agitated, was 84 years old and had just had a very long flight.  “No problem dad,” I said breezily, “you hop in and I will sort this all out in a jiffy.”   He and TT “hopped in” and I then asked the guys why they had clamped me.  It was a really OLD chain and clamp.  They started apologising and then said that it was a shame but I had parked between the lines and it was against the airport regulations.   “Hmmm,” I said, “yes that it true, BUT there are no cars here except for me and one over in the other bay, and by the way do you work for the aiport?”  They clearly didn’t.  They started looked shifty, and asked if I could perhaps help them with a Coca Cola.  I “helped” them with a coca cola and some food and they got the key out and undid the bloody wheel… “How much did that cost you?” asked my father when I got in.  “It was a bargain dad, a real bargain.”  “Bloody Hell,” he replied, “we haven’t even left the car park and we’ve already paid a bribe.”   He loved it, it was such a good story.

The tree in my garden that I always reverse into has had its holiday for three weeks and is now ready for action and the next round of the new tree hitting season.  The later I am or the more absent minded, the more likely I am to hit it.  I think it is a good thing it is there, as it is better to hit a tree on a regular basis than concrete.  I only ever touch it with the metal roll bar at the back of the land cruiser.  I reverse out of the gargage in my plot, and then as soon as I hear the thud I know it is time to turn round and off I go.

It is great to be back.


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