Friday, February 25, 2005

Marcus in Arabia: UAE Annoyances.

To the sensitivity police I am speaking in general terms here. Take a random sampling from the two populations I compare & contrast and you will not find my statements to be true in EVERY case but in a majority of cases they will be true.

The biggest annoyance by far was the driving! Stop signs were yield signs (if that) and all too often red lights meant go through them real fast. The cause of this was "wasta" and people in high places helping their friends even if their friends were in the wrong and a too stoical attitude. If God wills I will survive this pass on a blind curve driving 100 mph.

So we have a teacher stopped at a red light awaiting the light to turn green a local rear ends her and the teacher is the one under suspicion of intoxication (in fact the University expediter reported the rear-ender looked messed up himself).

Another annoyance especially on the men's campus was the rampant "help" the students gave each other. They would tell me it was an Islamic virtue to help others in need and no amount of discussion on the subject could convince most of them there was a proper time for help and an improper time. Not being a Muslim I could not frame the argument in Islamic terms which probably would not have helped anyway. Some of these students were very good at cheating and there were a couple I watched closely but could not catch. Later on other students would confirm my suspicions.

Another annoyance was dealing with bureaucracies. Long lines (or more often mobs in front of a window) and make work jobs. I swear the car registration process had one stop where the man's job was to remove the staple from the bundle of paperwork, re-order the papers and restaple. Officiousness was also a problem here. Later on the telephone company managed to put in a automated bill paying machine which helped out with this and the University had its own post office so as long as I did not have to deal with customs I did not have to go to the central post office.

Lots of time for themselves when you need their help but little time when they need your help. Actually this manifested itself on the roadways. When they were in a hurry it would be a very bad idea to be in the way but don't expect them to hustle when you are in a hurry.

Having to watch what you say. Even though the UAE claims to allow for freedom of speech, their freedom of speech comes with a checklist. Violating the checklist did not necessarily bring the wrath of the UAE government down on you but it could.

Rules just for having rules. A set of rules might be promulgated then promptly ignored by people and the authorities that promulgated the rules. However, if you gave them a reason to be upset with you then the rules would be enforced. Actually this worked both ways and could find itself a good thing from time to time.

Next installment: UAE Niceties.