One could live in Abu Dhabi for quite for a while and still be surprised at the various laws that exist. As an expat living in the country I find myself regarding the rules a lot more closely than I may have done in Ireland. There’s something about seeing rows and rows of fully functioning speed cameras along motorways and city routes that curtails ones speeding habits, more so than the threat of a single Garda to step out of a ditch with a speed recording gun in the black of night.
Knowing that in Abu Dhabi speeding fines are delivered by a non-negotiable text message system which politely informs you of where the excess speed occurred and the amount of the on-the-spot fine, makes speeding less likely, that it may have been in Ireland. That invaluable face-time offered by the Irish traffic system, where the hawk eyed Garda stands at the car window and gives you the opportunity to excuse yourself, asking, “Do you realise what speeding you were driving at?” To which you can reply with a lame or quirky excuse and hope to somehow curry favour with the Garda and go free, never happened at any stage in my driving career but I always held out hope.
Either way my days of doing 50 in a 30 were well and truly over, as beaten into submission by rules and regulations I edge toward conformation and try at all costs to avoid confrontation especially with the law, especially in the Middle East.
So driving at the speed of a ten year old people carrier in need of an oil change and a good service, I am surprised to see the flashing lights of a UAE squad car in my rear view mirror, I hasten to pull over to let him pass, obviously I’m not the problem, unless they are operating some kind of x-ray surveillance that enables them to see through the car where the driver is using one hand to pass back raisins to an unruly passenger and the other to twiddle with the radio to find Dubai 92fm for some English speaking entertainment.
Alas, the squad tailing me, pulls in right behind me and engages even more flashing lights in an effort to get me to stop. During the twenty four steps it took him to get my drivers mirror, the world slipped into slow motion, I pictured myself being cuffed while face-down on the bonnet for some minor road using offence, The children taken into care, the car confiscated all because I didn’t use my indicators on the roundabout or some similar mistake.
The poker straight, young Emirate warden held his electronic notepad and tipped the stylus endlessly on the screen as if searching for the correct offence for me. ‘Madam, in order maintain the aesthetic appearance of the city, I will have to issue you a warning to go home and wash otherwise there will be a fine”. It was true I was no oil painting, I glanced down at my yogurt stricken t-shirt and mis-matched shorts and nodded back to him accepting my neglect, but come on, a fine!, for being aesthetically unpleasing, even for me this was a first. It was true I wasn’t the same fresh faced twenty-something I once was, lines appear, cheeks sag and hairlines recede, I had children for crying out loud, surely I could work off a handicap or something, My hackles rose, I plucked up the courage and gave a cheeky retort, “I don’t think you should write me off just yet, I’m not what I was ten years ago, you’ve caught me on a bad morning, I do brush up ok, there’s worse than me out there”.
“Madam, this fine is for your car being dirty, under UAE law it is a crime to have your car this dirty, please wash immediately, also I will warn that it is illegal to wash using water outside your house, so you must visit service station”.
Head hung low I pulled off happy with the warning in lieu of an on-the-spot-fine and twice as happy that I haven’t reached the depths of being fined for my appearance.