Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Driving Adventure in the Dhabi

Hello all

The paragraph below is a post from my coworker that she put on the company blog yesterday. (Names and pertinent project details changed/removed)

"Today's adventure in the UAE: 4 members of the team drive for an hour in 115+ degree heat looking for a gas station in a tiny Nissan TILDA.  J is at the wheel, swearing and repeating, "We're going to run out of gas, we're really going to run out of gas", T keeps yelling, "But it's RIGHT HERE on the map!", K is moaning in the backseat at every speedbump, trying not to throw up as C is giggling hysterically and muttering "I'm going to pass out if I don't eat something!"  Finally, after entering the 'exit' and driving the wrong way down a one-way street, the group pulls into the gas station, only to narrowly miss a head-on collision with an angry Emirate in a car whose air conditioning was probably a lot better than the TILDA's.  Luckily, as we're pumping petrol, CM (who was trying to follow us with P) sprints up to the car and throws a bag of water and a single KitKat through the window ... just another day at TW."

She summed it up pretty well. We had been headed out to grab lunch since we can't eat onsite on Mondays. What was supposed to be a quick 40 minute or so lunch not far from the site turned into an 1.5 adventure just trying to cross the street and find gas (that is all before FINALLY getting lunch). There are a couple major freeways (highways?) in Abu Dhabi but there are little to NO overpasses. Thus it's virtually impossible to cross the street in some cases. A few times now we have gone out of our way to get turned around but yesterday was a whole other experience. We started out in two cars to head out to lunch with one of the cars at about a quarter tank of gas. For some reason with these rental cars you can go from a quarter tank to E in about 2 minutes flat. 

You know how I said there are no overpasses here? Well there are very few gas stations as well. BUT WAIT. You must be thinking "but Christine, how can one of the world's major producers of oil not have any gas stations?" And you know what I would say in response? 


I do, however, have an 1.5 adventure in the desert for my troubles! It really is the oddest thing. Gas stations are few and far between and so when you find them, you almost always have to wait in line to for a pump. On the bright side it only costs about $22 to fill up a tank (and this is full service). I can't remember the last time I paid less then $45 to $50 for my little Toyota Corolla that gets really decent gas mileage so this is exciting. 

We did, eventually, fill the car up and make our way to lunch but by that point half the group had to get their lunches to go so they could go back to the site for a meeting. This is when the rental car keys got handed to me. Yeah, I don't know what anyone was thinking either. I was fairly nervous while eating my lunch. This is a country where in the 2 weeks that I've already been here, I've almost been killed in car accidents 3 times. A country where you can be going 80mph and an Emirate in an SUV will come from out of nowhere and all but ram your bumper while honking incessantly if you weren't quick enough to notice them in your rear view mirror and get out of their way. We try very hard to NEVER leave the slow lane. 

There are also roundabouts. 

The only roundabouts I've ever encountered are both in Long Beach. One is fairly busy and the other is in a quiet residential neighborhood. The busy one doesn't really count though because whilst driving in that one I'm surrounded by other non roundabout savvy Americans and so for the most part we all err on the side of caution. Roundabouts here, however, are death traps. I can't even fully describe the near misses I've had in roundabouts here just as a passenger, because my blood pressure and adrenaline levels start climbing so quickly it's a frightening thing. So you can all imagine my terror when presented with the drive back from lunch to the work site. 1 parking lot full of crazy Emirates and 2 roundabouts stood between me and work. I was seriously tempted to just not go back to work. Luckily, my two co-pilots helped me by being extra sets of eyes and ears to watch for speeding Emirates dropping out of the sky while I was in the roundabouts. Hey! You laugh, but this has literally happened. One minute you are happily driving in a circle no one else in sight, the next minute a flying Emirate is cutting you off from the left leaving you to slam on your brakes at 75mph. I was lucky though and made it through the roundabouts unscathed. My copilots, though, didn't make it over the speed bumps. There are these odd, lower, flat speed bumps that even with bright yellow arrows failed to catch my attention and all I saw in my rear view mirror was poor T achieving lift off in the back seat as I hit the speed bump at full speed. 

I don't think I'll be getting the keys back anytime soon...

(This is not my picture. I lifted it from google. This is not even a particularly crowded gas station. This is just normal time.)

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