Along Came Serena

In a previous post I mentioned how terrified I was to drive in Abu Dhabi. Anyone who has ridden in a car with me back home knows I’m a fairly aggressive driver so that just goes to show how nutty it is around here. I can only equate it to video games like Mario Kart and Frogger where every man’s for himself, hoping against all odds to win the game and stay alive. Several observations have struck me as odder than odd, and here they are:
1. Left turn lane: U-turns are the norm as sometimes you have to pass your destination and then turn around and backtrack to get there (reminds me of how it’s done in parts of Michigan but with longer backtracking) I’ve noticed that the left turn lane is often used for u-turns while the next lane over- with an arrow pointing straight- is used by those who want to make a regular left turn. Legal? No! But common.
2. Turn signals: I feel stupid using mine because hardly anyone else does. Instead of signaling to change lanes, drivers use the weave and honk method. My theory is that with so many expat teachers here we can overtake the crazy drivers and show them how it’s done properly. In other words, I’m trying to start a revolution so I make it home in one piece.
3. Speed and red light cameras: I’ll be the first to admit I tend to be a little heavy on the gas pedal. Speeds here range from 40-120 km/hr (so 25-75 mph just like at home). I’m not sure about regular roads but a nice young Emirati man explained to me that one can drive 20 km/hr over the posted highway limit but on the 21st km over (if your area is monitored) you’ll be notified of a ticket. So that’s incentive enough to be cognisant of the signs. Now, I’ve also gotten my fair share of red light tickets in Chicago. What’s monitored is not the “make a full stop before turning right” rule because they don’t have that here (BONUS!), but actually running a red light. The green light flashes three times and is followed by a super-short yellow light. If you run the red… automatic ticket. I’ve only seen one person run a red since I’ve been here- most people slam on the brakes when they see the flashing green. I wonder if the ticket fine is heavier because many more people disobey the speed rule than the red light rule.
4. Parking: Whenever, wherever. I had to go to ADEC headquarters the other day and since their tiny lot was full I went in search of a spot. I pulled into a sand parking lot and wedged my way into a “space”. When I returned a few hours later, the aisles within the lot were completely blocked by other cars. Luckily I had offered to drive someone else home so she guided me out of my spot as I backed up and pulled forward into what amounted to a 20-point turn executed in 4-inch increments. No scratches or dents, so it was a victory! I’ve also noticed cars parked on sidewalks… never thought of that one before! And streetside parallel parking? Just park facing either direction and don’t give it a second thought.
5. Stop signs- they’re not even “STOP”tional, they’re for decoration only.
Now I will introduce Serena. She’s a godsend. I picked her up at a Wal-mart type store called Carrefour- in the basement of the mall, of course. Serena is my GPS; she guides me in her lilting British voice (everything is more British than Amercian here, as you might suspect) and delivers me promptly to my destinations. Since there are no addresses, I type in the name of the destination or the coordinates and she does the navigation. I’m convinced she takes the long way sometimes but I don’t know enough to challenge her yet. My school has three words in its name; it took awhile to figure out that Serena only recognizes the name when I type it as one big word, but she’s just efficient like that. I’d be SO lost without her. She calmly directs me to “drive 700 kilometers and turn left on the unpaved road” or “at the roundabout, take the 3rd street.” I’ve only driven once in the dark and it was close to home, but she has given me the confidence to get behind the wheel instead of calling for a taxi or asking for a ride. So look out, fellow drivers, because I’m watching and taking notes! I WILL survive!
I apologize for the low quality of some of my photos. I could blame the glare from the sun on the windshield and the fact that my iphone camera lens fogs up on occasion, but that wouldn’t make anything better now, would it?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. joyce belluomini
    Sep 02, 2014 @ 21:45:03

    Hi Suzanne! I really enjoy reading your posts and love your humor! And I would
    have loved to witness that phenomenal 20 point turn to some circus music.
    You deserve a metal for the remarkable driving feats you’re performing out there. Glad your doing well! Wishing you wonderful experiences ahead!
    Keep us posted! 🙂



  2. Tom Dumit
    Sep 06, 2014 @ 20:09:27

    Sue–Deb shared your blog and I was amazed, amused and impressed. What a gutsy move. We’ll continue to follow your adventures while wishing you and the girls all the best!
    Tom D.



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