If you ever get to visit Egypt you’re in for a gander at some of the most breathtaking sights known to man - the pyramids, the temples… the driving. Yes, the driving. When I suggested a hire car, it was immediately nixed. “Ohno, you don't drive on Egyptian roads - not unless you value that thing you call your life,” said the travel agent. I laughed, she laughed. Couldn't be that bad right? Ohyes, yes it could. Intersections? Meh, we just go. Traffic lights? Shrug, mere suggestions. Brakes? Nowhere near as efficient as a foot planted flat on an accelerator pedal. As we hurled around the roads in a battered up kombi, I kept my eye on the thousands of satellite dishes dotted across Cairo’s suburban roofs, realising why the Ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife. I was never going to drive on roads like these again, never.
Ha! As I type I can hear the early morning hooter snarls blaring from the M1 highway. Oh, there goes another. Long, loud and angry - I’d guess it was a beemer - another retaliating in shorter, punchier gasps. Was it someone blocking the intersection? Their car’s arse extended into the oncoming traffic with not one ounce of fuck given? Or was it perhaps the texting driver, eyes on screen, eyes on screen, who realises they are in the wrong lane, so hand down, swipes the indicator, and holy hell, just moves into the next lane? What was that screeching sound? The smell of tyre flambéing tar? Eyes on screen, eyes on screen. #arsehole. Oh, I know what it was…the mini-circle. You know the procedure for this one right? Eyes ahead, tunnel vision, put voet boet and charge through. Slow down? No. Stop? Hell no. Observe the actual rules? No-one knows the rules, what’s it again? Can’t be asked. Observe the stand-in rule? Again, no. Do I not know how important these people are and how late they are for that meeting?
Driving around Johannesburg has done wonders for my telepathic skills. Wonders. I can sense from that slightly hesitant shudder that the car in front is going to change lanes without indicating, and……yep, there it is. Did he see me? No. On his phone. Very important. So important. I wouldn't be able to identify him in the supermarket, but he’s very important you know. That’s why he’s on his phone. Ahead, the light is green. We sit, we wait. A whole ten seconds go by before the cars move off their starting line. Why? Watch what happens when it turns red. This guy goes through on the orange, then then the car behind him, and the one behind him. An emergency vehicle waits for the colour blind to advance before pushing through the throng of cars who’ve descended on the intersection much like a bouncer fending off teenage girls at a Bieber concert. No amount of wailing sirens is going to stop them from going, going, going. Standard Bank should sponsor traffic intersections - moving forward.
I wondered once whether drivers were merely getting in some practice before emigrating to the States - you know, driving on the right hand side of the road. Long lines of traffic backed up, end-of-the-day style, and along comes Charlie, he’s had enough, enough, and he decides to just pull into oncoming traffic and jump the queue. Precious treasure this one. He’s going to turn left from the right-hand turn only lane. What’s a road marking? A spiritual scrawling from the guys at the municipality? To that matter, what’s with a sign? Like ‘Stop’? Doesn't mean, like actually, ‘stop’? He’s driving a van, one of those mommy vans that used to be the exclusive preserve of courier companies and serial killers, oh hang on… how many kids do you need to strap in a mommy van? Trick question. Everyone knows that you don't have to strap kids in a mommy van because they’re so much bigger than the other cars on the roads, that nothing like a higher centre of gravity and basic physics is going to touch the higher-functioning skills of the driver. How come no-one’s requesting a truck licence for operating these silver-plated ego machines? Exaggerating? The parking lots of Hyde Park and Blubird are rife with the parking-challenged. Take popcorn. It’s cheaper than the movies for entertainment.
Maybe we should blame the taxi drivers. If they hadn't shown us how it was done, how would we have known to accelerate at traffic trying to get onto the highway? Or use the hard shoulder as an additional lane? We seem to be a bop, hit and a thump away from Egypt. Now there’s a scary thought.