Thursday, March 9, 2006

Rage Against the (Silver Four-Door) Machine

I have already expounded on the parking abilities (I use that word deliberately as the word disability is no longer p.c.) of the indigenous folk and for fear of looking like a complete Moroccan-basher, I have refrained from further discussing their driving 'techniques'. But today I was nearly killed by a car so I don't fucking care who I may offend.

It is a fact of life that Moroccans pretty much make up road rules as its suits them: they view traffic lights as suggestions, consider speed limits discretionary, invent multiple lanes where one exists, make left turns from the farthest right lane, careen around corners with complete disregard for the bipedal variety of soon-to-be roadkill (those of us foolish enough to leave the safety of the sidewalks), and drive onto the sidewalks (to mock the rest of us) looking for a primo parking spot - but this is small beer. I have had near misses pretty much every other day since I've been here. My hide has become thick - or at least thicker.

But everything has changed.

This morning as I was walking to my French tutor's apartment, I was in a decidedly bad humour. Halfway to his home, I had already received 3 lewd comments, 2 wolf whistles, and watched in disgust as a driver nearly plowed into a parked vehicle while rubbernecking at me. On good days, this puerile behaviour rankles, on bad days it infuriates me. As I debated introducing a vivid discussion in class on the vagaries of Moroccan men (specificially why their disrespect towards women and rampant lasciviousness remains unchecked), I made a near fatal error. I elected to cross a street. Stupid stupid stupid Cat in Rabat!

This two-lane street was rather wide, and because of the time of day, nearly deserted; in fact, there was only 1 car on the far side of the nearest intersection. Even walking kitty-corner, I had more than enough time to cross safely. As I stepped into the street, I heard the car accelerate. I looked up in time to see the car bearing down on me. I began to run and as I did so, I realised that the car was not just speeding but speeding towards me: it had changed lanes. The driver of the vehicle actually steered into what would be the lane for oncoming traffic. Panicking, I lunged for the sidewalk and as I did, I fell - not unlike a 3rd base runner diving for home base. As I hit the sidewalk, the car swooshed by, taking with it the umbrella which I had been holding for a few meters - he was that close to me. The car stopped. I looked at it in disbelief, swearing a colourful streak of azure blue.

The driver looked out of his window and laughed at me.

Shaken, I continued to my French class where I cried like an imbecile. My colleagues would later ask why I didn't go to the police, but I hadn't had the wherewithal to note down the licence plate number. Perhaps that's why the driver stuck his head out of the window - not to just to ridicule me or to see if I was alive but to ensure that I wasn't going to report him. If I had, perhaps he would have shifted into reverse and pummelled me into luncheon meat. My boss opined that even if I had reported the fuckhead, nothing would have been done about it - at best, I may have received lip service to placate me. I fear he is correct.

What has shaken me the most from this experience, besides envisioning a lengthy stay in Avicenne Hospital (somewhat reminiscent of a Stalin-era KGB headquarters) or a lengthy stay in another astral dimension, was the complete absence of a motive. Why did the driver bear down on me? - for kicks? I guess so. Playing chicken with higher stakes? Maybe. The odd thing is that I could've accepted it if he had "just" been a typical reckless driver, if he hadn't seen me, if he hadn't been paying attention. But this was deliberate. And to suggest that this hasn't coloured how I feel about Morocco would be the mother of all lies. Not surprisingly, my decidedly bad humour of 11 hours ago continues unabated. But I will correct a comment I made earlier: today I wasn't nearly killed by a car, I was nearly killed by a driver.

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