Morning madness: traffic, lane jumpers and hugs

Originally written for Gulf News “Off the Cuff”

(Late upload, sorry guys)


If only the roads were this quiet in the morning!

There is something special about a crisp winter morning, when one simply breathes in the fresh, cool air, rests for a moment, and feels truly alive. Alas, I hardly ever get a chance to watch the sun rise on beautiful, foggy mornings because mornings at my place are pure madness.

Let me explain.

It all begins with the persistently annoying ring of my phone that wakes me up, reminding me that there are only so many hours when one can retreat into one’s own quiet world. Then I try to wake up two little girls who have decided their mother is an unreasonable person who always makes the wrong request at the wrong time.

Even more taxing, however, is getting them to eat breakfast. Then the packed lunches I painstakingly prepared the day before go into their snack bags, and then somehow, we get dressed. Amid the morning frenzy, the tea sometimes spills, someone gets the wrong shoes on, the girls forget their water bottles, and we occasionally get late. When I finally find myself on the road, I feel relaxed, because the sea of traffic is oddly reassuring. It’s almost as though it’s telling me, “look you’ve at least left home!”

As I snail along in the traffic to get to work, patiently waiting for my turn to take my exit, out of nowhere, a car zooms to my left and the driver puts the indicator on. This is no polite request to turn; it is actually a rude comment along the lines of, “My time is more precious than yours. There’s no way I’m going to wait in this long queue of cars. You better move it, so I can jump this lane!”

Such drivers get me seething. The better half is an eternally ‘nice guy’ who will ignore these people and advises me to do the same, but I usually honk loudly, and yet I find them quite determined to carry on. The indicator stays, and I glare at them, hoping they realise how exasperating it is, when someone whizzes ahead of you in the morning traffic, when every minute is precious, and the difference between ‘on time’ and ‘late’ is a mere five minutes. I inch close to the next car in the line, to deny the lane-jumper any space to destroy the queue.

Then when I get on to the main road, I hover slightly above the speed limit (fast enough but wouldn’t get me a speeding fine). If I go even a little slower, as I sometimes do, the people behind me come too close to my car, as if to say “Look, if you can’t keep up, just move, okay?” and I glide away into the next lane, and let them pass me by disdainfully with a roar of speed.

As the morning law would have it, I get stuck behind a very slow school bus, or a senior driver who is well and truly out there to enjoy the morning, and tips the ash off his cigarette out the window in a very leisurely way. When I change lanes yet again, I do the disagreeable task of nestling myself between two other hunks of metal, neither of which are welcoming. I raise a hand in thanks to the other drivers. They do not look remotely pleased and probably think to themselves “Whatever!”

Then I pass my good friend Salik, not once, but twice, who these days, seems to have an insatiable appetite and nibbles away perennially on our balance. I get to work in one piece, thankfully, but the adventure begins again when I leave a little after noon, and it’s time to do the afternoon school runs!

As I buckle up, play my favourite tracks, and speed along Sheikh Zayed Road, I look forward to picking up two young ladies whose warm hugs and welcoming smiles make everything seem right, crazy as it sometimes gets.


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