Beirut and traffic and jam and cars and shouts and horns and honks and swearing and mad drivers and ….never ending commotion.
A lot to take on? You’re dead right! Every single day Lebanese face the dreaded drive to Beirut, in Beirut, from Beirut and through Beirut.
Nerve wrecking and gut drenching it ‘s a huge waste of time, draining your energy, driving you to use insane vocabulary words you never knew they existed in your memory and driving your blood pressure to new heights when you discover that many Lebanese drivers are color blind, mixing green with red lights and dismissing radars… as part of the general landscape.
You’ve got to try it even once in your lifetime. Please put it on your bucket list. Nothing prepares you for the onslaught. It’s like being taken by surprise in a tornado, hurricane, typhoon, cyclone, and sandstorm. No need to embrace bungee jumping, Himalaya climbing, Formula 1 driving, or any other dangerous sport to be on a high, to feel the rush, to risk your life and live dangerously. You just need to get behind your wheel and drive in, to or from Beirut.
The moment you’re in, you’ll feel a wave taking you from right to left by possessed superhumans who throw you killer looks translated into: “Why are you driving in a straight line you dumb a….hole?!!! don’t you see I want to take your place? Don’t you understand anything?” Don’t worry, no discrimination there of race, religion, gender. You’ll jump out of your wits every time a fellow driver honks brazenly “on your right side”; wish to climb all cars in front of you to get to your place of work, which is a few streets away; You’ll get on a high every time a motorbike flashes in front of you coming out of nowhere or a human being choses the moment the highway is free of traffic to cross slowly to the other side, looking straight, swearing and vociferating as if you were some alien falling from the skies when you honk loudly, out of your wits with fear of trampling him or her. You’ll definitely feel the rush when, coming from the opposite direction, a very rushed, suicidal, I’ll make-it-before-the-light-goes-red maniac misses you by millimeters.
By the time your blood pressure gets back to normal (your heart is still solid, it didn’t go into cardiac arrest) another surprise is waiting for you.
It’s not all bad though! Let me enumerate the benefits of staying in your car when there is a traffic jam and you have to stop. You can:
- Text advitam eternam
- Catch up with your facebook posts
- Write your letter of resignation because you’re so late to get to work every day
- Get a tan if it’s summer
- Make friends with the driver next to you
- Flirt with the lady or gentleman next to you
- Educate your child who is seated in the back
- Read a book if you’re over 40
- Check the online news
- Knead a sweater if you’re over 70(in Lebanon we drive till we die, young or old)
- Do your pedi-mani, make up and the works
- Write your bucket list for the next life because you won’t have time in the actual one since you’re driving in Beirut.
You’ll achieve nirvana when your good luck runs out (every now and then) and there is an accident. How do you know there is one if there is always traffic? Good question! When you have to switch off your car and watch a few others (many cars are good for junk but we keep them out of poverty, non-existent rules and doubts about if they might belong someday to the UNESCO patrimony) fume or burn; when many drivers start honking loudly, continuously and tirelessly; when others start swearing loudly while jumping on the cars to check what’s happening and when you discover what people in coma must feel but without the comfort of a hospital bed, silence and caring nurses.
Last but not least, what beats the nirvana state is when the accident happens in the middle of a rainy winter when the road becomes a large lake that engulfs you and keeps you sequestrated for hours, then, and only then you feel that you’ve come full circle, that you’ve seen everything and that you can die happily.