Sunday, January 17, 2016

Flagging a problem

“You are required,” decreed the Grand Frommaj to one of his Trusted Advisors, “To talk to all the other Trusted Advisors and then to submit your proposals to the Directorate of Rubber Stamps for approval.”

Not wishing to disobey a Frommaji decree, the Trusted Advisor did so. He and other Advisors met, formed a consensus, and then the Trusted Advisor went to the Directorate to obtain his Rubber Stamp of approval. 

Which was summarily rejected. 

The Directorate of Rubber Stamps, who was the final approving authority, advised that the flagpoles had to be blue in colour, and all the banners needed to be a uniform shade of red. The Trusted Advisor took these new requirements away, made changes to his drawings, and then resubmitted. After several more meetings during which the shades of red and blue were tweaked and adjusted, the Directorate of Rubber Stamps at last provided a final and irrevocable approval.

And they all lived happily ever after? Not as such.

A second Trusted Advisor, and a third, each received his own feedback and final approval. Except that they’d both been required to provide green flagpoles and yellow banners, or black flagpoles and orange banners. Each Trusted Advisor had explained that what he was told to do differed from the other Advisors’ proposals, but the Directorate assured each that this one was the correct one.

All three Trusted Advisors met and discussed the issue as had been instructed by the Grand Frommaj. It was obvious that a single solution could not be developed. The Ministry of Paper Clips stepped in and helpfully pointed out that it was entirely the Trusted Advisors’ fault that these three different designs had all been approved when a single design was required by the approving authority, the Directorate of Rubber Stamps.

And so, because the Directorate of Rubber Stamps could not lose face, he refused to change any of his previous approvals. All three sets of flagpoles and banners were supplied and erected, and blame for the subsequent ridicule in the international press was laid firmly at the feet of the Trusted Advisors.


Saturday, January 02, 2016

D*ckhead Day

In a fight between a Patrol and a Sunny
 there can be only one victor.
One is perhaps given to wonder if there’s been a rash of New Year’s resolutions to drive extra badly this year.

First, we note that Qatar Police have introduced some new ‘no messing around’ rules, including a QAR1000 fine for undertaking and penalty points for speeding. You collect 15 of these and get a bicycle. Therefore undertaking is definitely a huge no-no.

I encountered the first d*ckhead at about 0615. On a two-lane dual carriageway with a 120km/h speed limit and no other traffic around, he was bumbling along in the left-hand lane at 80km/h. As coming up behind him and flashing headlights counts as aggressive and offensive driving I couldn’t do that, and I couldn’t whiz past on the inside. After about ten minutes, the driver of the pick-up finished his Facebook post, glanced in his mirror and at last moved over to let me past. Then he moved back into the left lane.

Now, normal procedure when waiting to turn left on a local road, I thought, is to wait in the middle of the road with the left signal flashing, wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic, and then make the turn. Apparently not. At about 0635 I had to stand on my brakes when a rickety Yaris suddenly turned left at full speed right in front of me. Just as well I was doing only the 40km/h speed limit and there was nobody behind me. Indicators? What are those?

Now 0930, and I was on my way up Al Shamal Road to a meeting. This expressway is four lanes in each direction and has a 120km/h speed limit. In the usual way the right-hand lane was empty because only inferior drivers lacking in the trouser department drive there. The second lane was full of water tankers and labourers’ buses. Lane 3 had a variety of cars and pickups generally trundling along at 110 to 120km/h, and there was me in my Nissan Sunny. Small Nissans receive zero respect from those magnificent men in their ginormous SUVs, and generally speaking I use the left-hand lane to overtake, getting the hell out of it as soon as is safely possible.

Enter the Chevrolet Avalanche, a humungous pickup with a 5.3 litre V8 engine and a nut holding the wheel. I was in the middle of an overtake and right up at the speed limit (which is rigidly enforced by cameras every few hundred metres) when I saw him, but he came up so fast I could neither accelerate nor slow down before being tailgated at about six inches. Flash Flash Flash. Hitting the gas under these circumstances is futile in a Sunny. The Avalanche swung into Lane 3, spotted the car I was overtaking, and hit his anchors. Then he was back, undertaking me before I had chance to move out of his way, cutting in front of me so that I have no idea how the vehicles didn’t hit. Then, as anticipated, I was treated to a brake test.

The next tailgater (d*ckhead number four in three hours if anyone’s keeping score) was about five kilometres further up the same road. This one was piloting a shiny new Nissan Patrol. He didn’t even bother slowing down, choosing instead to overtake me on the left-hand breakdown lane. Alas, the hard shoulder is narrow, a Nissan Patrol is wide, and I couldn’t move over because of the stream of slower cars to my right when the driver ran out of talent.

After stopping he leapt from his car and demanded first in Arabic and then is good English why I’d rammed him and not moved over. When I said “Overtaking. Hard shoulder forbidden” he got all bent outta shape in the manner of varous pieces of Nissan hardware.

Enter my passengers. Both eyewitnesses, and both Arabic native speakers. The Patrol pilot very quickly decided that it was his fault, and in due course we ended up at the police station. There were discussions in Arabic, and I was given my copy of the police report, also entirely in Arabic. I got one of my colleagues to tell me exactly what it said. I’m not daft.

At this juncture I learned that the Patrol was covered only by third-party insurance. Not only was the owner going to be hours and hours late for his meeting, but he was due to incur a massive amount of expense. Driving on the hard shoulder is a serious offence.

And so to the car rental office to replace my Sunny.

“This police report says it’s your fault,” I was told. “Says here.”

“It most certainly does not. You imagine I can’t read Arabic? It actually says here…” and I proceeded to parrot what my colleague had told me.

“No, no, Mr Mohammed. You are to blame. It says so on the form.”

“It does indeed say that Mr Mohammed is to blame. But do I look like Mr Mohammed, with a Nissan Patrol? Or is it more likely that I’m the other party; one Mr G. Goat, driving a rental Sunny hired to him by your own good selves?”

Clearly an attempt to extort my insurance deductible, their pathetic attempt at subterfuge was exposed. “Now apologise!”

I decided to return to Cloud City and hide from society for the rest of the day. I have just been disturbed by Room Service. Someone ordered a Turkish coffee and gave my room number instead of theirs.


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