Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The land of innocence

So the barge owner on which over a thousand egyptians died was declared innocent by the court; it is not that he purposely pulled a drill out of his tool box and poked holes in the vessel. Accidents happen. Sure the decision was put on hold,  but who are we kidding, he is a card holding member of the ruling party.  

In Lebanon, nearly a thousand people die every year in car accidents. It's not that the roads are unsafe, or the cars aren't street legal. It is not because traffic cops don't even know the rules much less enforce them. Accidents just happen, and people die. Lebanon's roads proved unsafe for Generation 4 Merkavas, yet teenagers popping wheelies on  their home-made scooters are common sights on busy highways. It's all innocent fun, and accidents just happen. Just like the tens that have been accidentally shot and killed throughout the country the past couple of... millennia?

But I am curious to know one thing though. I wonder if YASA keeps these stats. Does the rate of fatality drop when  a car is protected by some type of religious iconography? If so, which icon is the most protective?

Monday, July 28, 2008

It must be tourist season

These days I get an average of 2 address inquiries every time I walk down the street. It does not even matter what time of day or night it is, lost souls are all over the place. I assume everyone gets these questions, because either that or I'm someone who looks like he nows where he stands. 

During tourist season, even cab drivers stray from their routes into unfamiliar and what is perceived as hostile grounds.  You can tell a cab driver is outside of his comfort zone when they are not their usual aggressive and rude selves.  "Pardon, Monsieur, where can I find le Roi de frites?" "Sorry, What?  you lost me at Pardon Monsieur..." "Lik Wayn Malik El Batata." " Much better, down the street you'll see it on your right."

Some other people you expect to be lost; like the Saudi license plate in front of Starbucks Hamra asking how to get to Starbucks Jounieh. Or the family of blondes asking for "Rue Hamra" on Rue Hamra. "But it looks nothing like the Champs Elysees." "Well.. Nostalgic ex-pats tend to slightly exaggerate the virtues of the homeland, but personally I like it better than the Parisian Avenue, No stupid Arch of Triumph, even though we claim more triumphs in a week than the French army has in its history. More importantly , no Golden Arches." "Whaat, no McD's???!"  "No  but there's le Roi de Frites."

P.S. This blog in no way, shape or form endorses Malik el Batata as a lunch option. It's solely to be used as a landmark for directions and a campaign stop for candidates who need a photo op with a "regular citizen" before an election. 

From Lebanon on and off

Getting stuck in the ascenseur

Just when you think that you have mastered the game, that the rules no longer apply to you; a major coup swiftly puts you back in place.

After four years of always escaping, of knowing exactly when to risk it and when to feign extra energy for five flights of stairs; one week got me twice. In both incidents the ever-present Natour was nowhere near his lair. In the first case; ten minutes in the heat and in the dark in close proximity to 7 strangers clearly put in perspective the number of emigrants fleeing the country. The 10 minutes should be multiplied by the dog year- human year factor to get the “felt like” time. While the second time around, a struggle to pull my body up into the Shibr wide opening out of the cabin was a blunt warning that the long overdue gym visit cannot be put off any longer.

Personal issues aside, getting stuck in the ascenseur is a rite of passage here. You cannot delay the inevitable indefinitely. Its risk factor has to be taken into consideration every time you are getting off the ground aiming for higher floors. Grocery shopping, garbage collection, wakes, tea time, and other social gatherings are scheduled around possible outage times. As you know, most mascara brands are not stuck-in-the-ascenseur proof. To be fair, this ritual is not all bad, there is one positive about it: it kills the music.

Stuck in the ascenseur; another slightly inconvenience in a long line of Lebanese inconveniences.