How about the Curious Case of the Algeria Street Speed Camera? The road runs from traffic lights at Tripoli Street to Uptown Mirdif. It’s a dual carriageway with a posted speed limit of 60kph owing to the curves, U-turns and junctions. But trust me: you’ll be run off the road by some hoon if you drive it at less than about 80kph. Do the authorities stick a camera halfway along the road, where it would catch almost everybody and make a tidy sum of revenue at Dh600 a pop? No. The camera is next to the Uptown Primary School junction where there’s invariably a tailback of U-turning vehicles and traffic speeds are approximately 15kph. I have a sneaking suspicion that the camera is meant to catch speeding motorists heading south, down the hill, but it’s been incompetently erected to face the wrong way.
Continuing with traffic and transportation, the last refuge of the Blogging Charlatan, I wonder what makes it OK for some people to display their tarmac tantrums (road rage, but a more appropriate name to illustrate their childishness) but not others? Having sounded my horn so that an erratically-piloted Lexus didn’t knock me off my bike one morning, the driver chose to sit about six inches behind the bike at the next red light and rev his engine against the limiter. And then to direct obscene gestures at me through his windscreen. Obviously I didn’t reciprocate. I know what happened to the Kiwi nurse.
How about the uniformed senior police officer, weaving all over the road in an entirely different erratically-piloted Lexus because he can’t drive with a phone stuck to his ear? Over Dh18,000 traffic fines currently outstanding, sir. You are clearly an exceptional driver.
I’ve now started keeping a written record for each memorable incident, the vehicle registration number, make and model, what the incident was and where it occurred.
I could also go on ad nauseam about my motorcycle accessories. The extended mudguards, the cruise control, the frame sliders in case it all goes pear-shaped. The sliders, or ‘crash mushrooms’ are already approximately pear-shaped, but might save the expensive plastic from excessive damage in the event of a low-speed get-off. Actually the bike is probably going to be farkled to the max once the sliders arrive from Germany. They're being shipped via Arizona because the shipping works out cheaper that way. I have no real need for an on-board radio, iPod, radar detector, heated grips, ape-hanger bars or beverage holders.
And then there’s the Gulf News Fun Drive. Details remain a secret for now, but all will be revealed in the newspaper early in 2010. Meanwhile the Goatmobile is stuck at the Crumbling Villa awaiting either warm or wet weather, or sand under the tyres. That’s where I’ll find the on-board radio and beverage holders.
The restaurant service charge fiasco has been discussed elsewhere on the blogosphere. Not that it would make one iota of difference how much I pay when I eat out, I’d prefer that gratuities go to the waiting staff, rather than be siphoned off by the proprietor.
Another piece of news is that petrol is going to be sold by the litre from tomorrow instead of by the gallon. This will leave the USA as the only country in the world still selling motor fuel in non-metric volumes. Unless you know different. It means that green petrol will cost Dh1.3748, and blue will be Dh1.4848 per litre.The change will make precisely zero difference to most drivers, who either “Fill ’er up!” or buy by the value: “Twenty dirhams of Super, please!” I shall be pleasantly surprised if petrol prices don’t get rounded up to Dh1.40 or Dh1.50 for green and blue respectively.
In an allied thought, I read recently that only the UK and USA still specify highway distances and vehicle speeds in imperial units. Everyone else, apparently, uses kilometres and kph. E&OE as usual.
Finally, on the subject of resistance to the metric system, here’s a little puzzle.
- In a field the shape of an equilateral triangle whose area is half an acre, there is an unspecified grazing animal. The beast is attached to one corner of the field by a rope, so that it can graze exactly 50% of the area of the field. To the nearest foot, how long is the rope? Show your working.
(You can ignore those parts of the rope around the animal’s neck, around the post and making the knots, and you can assume as zero the distance between the rope and the animal’s mouth. It’s a straightforward geometry puzzle with no tricks.)
And that’s my lot for 2009. Happy New Year, folks.