Car trouble has to be just about the last thing anyone wants to entertain on any day of the week, especially on the day when you’re travelling from Abu Dhabi to Dubai with two teenagers, one toddler, three headaches and the feeling that you’re going to be late.
It’s an unspoken rule in Ireland that those who emigrate should be seen to be doing well for themselves. Normally this doesn’t present a problem, as you just have to arrive in Cork Airport enthusiastic and fresh faced and Louis Vuitton adorned, albeit fake on both counts, to show that you’re enjoying the dolce vita in the Middle East. You wow the relatives with details of your trips around the GCC countries and casually slip in a picture of yourself superimposed in front of the Burj Khalifa.
So when you hear that friends from Ireland are coming to Dubai for a five night mini-break and want to meet up, the pressure is on to maintain the cosmopolitan image. You look forward to meeting up even if a little miffed that they could afford a five night mini-break to Dubai from Ireland and I live an hour down the road in Abu Dhabi and can’t afford an overnight stay!
Hey ho, with my old, un-serviced but big and very shiny 4 x 4 up the road to Dubai and hope that the not- to- scratched chrome finish dazzles them.
It wasn’t until driving in six lanes of traffic at 120klms per hour that the power steering failed and the car emitted one last sigh before come to an uneventful halt. Luckily I had been able to steer the car now caravan, as not moving but still inhabited, to the side of the road. Halfway between Jebel Ali and Dubai with nothing only camels, sand and a rapidly depleting phone battery, I telephone the main Mitsubishi dealer in Dubai, after he had deciphered that my car was older that he and likely commission to be obtained from my call was nil, he proceeded to give me a garage number. Four garage numbers and several broken English conversations later, I get to speak to someone who confirmed that he will be out to fix the car within one hour; at least that’s what I thought we had agreed.
One hour later, with no A/C in forty degree heat, like a mirage a Toyota pick-up truck and vehicle recovery unit emerged from the melting tar. Surprised to see they didn’t even have a wrench I queried as to how long this would take to fix, “fan belt broken madam” was the reply. He thereafter spoke Arabic and I replied in English, I thought all in order until just then, standing at the side of the Sheikh Zayed Maktoum Highway with three kids and last year’s sandals, that I saw the car being driven onto the back of the recovery vehicle. It as being taken away and we were left deserted, literally.
The only option was to sit into the front of the recovery truck and kindly request to be dropped to the nearest mall, incidentally the one where I was meeting my friends from home. The twenty minute drive from the scene to the mall seemed like an eternity and the smell of feet from the Bangladeshi driver was stifling particularly when he popped his foot out of his sandal and rested it on the dashboard right in front of me.
Stumbling out of the truck at the breakneck speed for fear that those from home would catch sight; we met the friends, just on time. Briefly giving an account of the morning’s events with my car issue, my friends scoffed at my hopes to have the car lifted, repaired and brought back on the same day.
Unlike Ireland, the Middle East is known for service and four hours later the car was returned to the mall, repaired and serviced and all for reasonable fee. The visitors were startled, never before had they seen such efficient service and for such a price, forget the tallest building in the world, the Burj al Arab or the dancing fountains, it was the sight of a 10 year old Pajero being towed into the car park that left them opened mouthed and truly dazzled.