The day has come and we have finally acquired a vehicle that 1. fits us all (with seatbelts even) and 2. that I am allowed to drive (only Peace Corps employees are allowed to drive the borrowed Peace Corps vehicle we have been using *wink, wink*). Oh how I have been awaiting this day! You have probably seen my previous posts about squeezing the kids into a little peugeot and the ensuing fun game of russian roulette in which one child doesn't get a seatbelt, the whinning, the touching, etc. etc. But what I have neglected to tell you is how driving is here in Rabat.
If you know me at all you may realize that I'm not a good "rule follower" in general. So lucky me that I finally live in a place where road rules don't matter. Yeeeeeeeeeesssssssss! That stop sign is a mere suggestion, if you'd rather not stop then don't. One way street? It's only one way if you're going that way, if should choose to go the other way, go ahead, no one's gonna stop you. And getting from lane to lane? Well, it's kinda like body blocking in rollerderby....simply accelerate and put your body (or car in this instance) in the way and deftly maneuver around doing your best not to actually make contact or you may get a penalty or worse, be ejected from the game (depending on the severity of the infraction of course). It could almost be a serene "dance" of sorts if it wasn't for the incessant honking that accompanies it.
Honking has a couple of meanings. First it usually occurrs at the instant the light turns green to notify the first driver in line who may be pulled up too far to see that the light has actually turned green. We'll call this a courtesy honk. The second most common honk is the non-courtesy (get the hell outta my way) honk. It can denote any displeasure no matter how great or small and the severity of displeasure can be determined pretty accurately by the length of the honk.
Then there are the safety matters inside your vehicle. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any. The only people with car seats for their kids are foreigners. Heck, your kid can sit in the front seat, they can even sit in your lap while you drive......you could let them steer if you wanted to (and yes I've witnessed all of these things). Now imagine how much fun you can have on a moped with a kid on your lap and driving while you're carrying a huge ladder with no helmet. Yup....seen that too!
So you may ask yourself is there any traffic enforcement? Why yes there is. They are at the traffic circles and stationed at various corners. When they want to pull you over they blow their whistle and point. Now how you could hear this whistle over the honking or see the pointing when you're trying not to hit the guy on the moped with the ladder with the kid on his lap with no helmet I don't know! And though I have never been pulled over personally I know several people who have. And 400 dirham will clear almost any driving infraction without a trace and bonus....his kid will get new shoes. However, saying you need to call the US embassy to clear the payment with them is the free instantaneous solution.
What if you don't have a car and need to hoof it? Say your prayers (really...even if you aren't religious...it can't hurt) and get ready for a real life game of frogger. Pedestrians are the last in the traffic food chain and those little white lines will not protect you if you're in the crosswalk. My youngest daughter Ember who fears nothing, now has a healthy fear of crossing the street.... thank god! She has started many dinner conversations with "Mommy and I were crossing the street and almost got hit by a car....".
I could go on and on about the traffic, general traffic oddities, the great joy I feel at bidding farewell to the taxi drivers here and I didn't even get into giving directions.... but that's a whole 'nother post. So let me leave you with this little ditty....
So if you like roller derby (****sung to the tune of the pina colada song****) and playin' frogger in the rain, if don't like recycling and got trash on your brain, if you like the call to prayer late at night and bug ridden grapes, then Rabat's the place you've searched for come out here and escape....
(Now you're gonna have that song stuck in your head all day....)