But he’s MY Driver!

31 Oct

So I have to share my driver with the most unlikely of people: My Dad.

Unlikely because a-he’s a man. b- He has a valid driver’s license. c- That means he can drive here. and best of all, d- He already has his “own” driver.

But I wind up having to “share” with my dad because … well… I have no idea why. His excuse is that he has his own guy doing other stuff. I usually don’t mind if I’m spending the day at work or something. But when it starts affecting me, like when my driver starts acting like I’m overworking him if I want to go out on a Thursday night…. or when I find out my dad is going out on a Friday with MY driver when it’s both driver’s day off…. I get a ticked. He can drive if he chooses to. Yes Jeddah traffic is a nightmare but if he chose to do it no one will stop him! So why does he pull my driver into work on his day off because his driver “goes to bed early”??!! Seriously?! And here I am stuck at home all day, when a simple “because I feel like it” seems to be a good enough reason.

If the driver gets tired or burned out and quits, it’s no skin off his back, he could still drive. I’ll be the one who suffers the consequences of his actions. So I did the only thing I could in this situation. I told my dad “He’s MY driver, take your own!”.

 

Yes, I’m aware of how “mature” I sound, and I’m also aware of how spoiled my dad sounds. In his defense, he’s a horrible driver and sometimes takes meds that could affect his driving abilities. So better safe than sorry. I still wish he’s respect the boundaries of who’s assigned to who. Especially since I get complaints if I make use of his driver. Oh well…. #saudigirlproblems

 

 

 

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Why Most Saudi Women Dread Holidays -

27 Oct

… Unless they’re traveling.

If you’ve lived in Saudi for any length of time you will have noticed that anyone who can will rush to the airport as soon as there are a few days off, even a day or two earlier. It’s not because we can’t do with our London/Paris/Nyc/Cairo/Beirut/Dubai/Istanbul visits, (well, it is but that’s not all) It’s because on holidays, most women and families are driver-less, hence stuck at home unless the dad/husband/driving age brother feels like some family time and takes everyone out for a walk on the corniche or around the mall.

It gets even worse when the holiday is attached to the weekend. As if it’s not enough that 50% of my weekend (Fridays) is unplan-able unless its within walking distance or I manage to sort out some other driver. This year, al Adha Eid happened to start on a Saturday. This made for two consecutive stuck-at-home days. No wheels, no friends, no errands, no plans. (In truth we went out for a family brunch on Sat, but you get what I mean).

I’m not advocating making drivers work on holidays, on the contrary I’m all for fair working hours and good holidays. I just don’t see why that should come at the expense of my own rights. Why should my freedom of movement mean someone else’s enslavement? Because let’s face it, that’s what it really is if you expect 18hr workdays and no weekends or holidays. No wonder so many Saudis travel. What all the above cities have in common is that you can just walk out and go to a cafe and see people. Or take taxis and metros and trains and other modes of public transportation. I don’t know about you but the taboo on taxis still stands in my family. And I’ve heard some weird stories about these companies that you hire for individual rides (won’t name names, but one guy started calling my friend on her phone and harassing her, and she had hired him via an app!).

I know some people (hopefully none of you) will say “well big deal, stay at home for a day or two”, but no thanks, I’d rather my lazy couch-potato, anti-social days be self-imposed and not mandatory.

couch potato homer

 

 

 

It’s not that things have been hassle-free…

20 Oct

imback2

It’s just that I’ve gotten better at ignoring them, I guess. But I do apologize for neglecting this blog, and internalizing all my random stories and adventures in the backseat driving world. I’ll try to be more regular.

I did embark (with a friend) on an attempt to collect stories like mine that relate to drivers and package them in a nice book cover that would serve as entertainment for future generations. But that’s been put on hold for a little while. Turns out collecting and editing stories is not as easy as a job as I first imagined. Maybe I’ll hire a ghost writer! But if you’re interested in contributing your story, in both Arabic or English, the check out the Driving Me Crazy in KSA facebook page. There you will find instructions on how to participate and will be kept up to date with the development of our admittedly sluggish process.

BUT I’m back! And so are my stories. Stay tuned!

xx

Backseat Driver

13 Feb

back seat driversA guy once told me, “When a car suddenly stops in the middle of the road, know that it has a woman (or more) telling there driver to turn HERE, TURN TURN TURN!! While he has no idea what to do.”

Ha, That’s pretty true, I can vouch for that. Though I normally give my driver enough of a notice to change lanes, he normally doesn’t listen.

So my current driver is a “good guy” so far. Manners, doesn’t argue, looks clean, only smells a bit sometimes. But he’s FOB. He had no idea where Malik road (One of the main roads of Jeddah) was when he first started working for us, (I have no idea how he found his way to our house to begin with). Anyhow, I had to give up playing candy crush in the car because now I had to pay attention to the roads.

“Go straight, stay in the left lane, at the second light turn left. No, not this one, next one.”

“this is called prince Sultan street, remember that. Ok now go straight…… turn left….. turn next right…. go seeda (straight)…. make u-turn….. okay park here! No, no, back up you missed it. yeah ok here, I’ll walk. “

Yayyy arrived at our destination!

Lol. But he really is a nice guy. And he’s calm. I like that. And willing to learn. Let’s hope he lasts…. Loosing drivers is more traumatizing than ending a relationship.

I think we need to start issuing backseat drivers licenses. So at least we feel some sort of legitimacy. In all fairness, My grandmother is a HORRIBLE back-seat driver. She keeps saying “Luf hena, min hena!!” (Turn here, no no here!), while waving with her hand from the back seat. Naturally, the poor driver has to physically turn around to see if she’s pointing left or right, which is a dangerous thing to do in the middle of the road while driving. Thankfully, they haven’t been in any accidents, God bless and protect them.

But yeah, Saudi women are probably the most professional back-seat drivers EVER. I’m printing the picture above and filling it out with my info and carrying it around in my wallet. In case anyone asks for proof of license.

 

 

 

We need an Ad-lee

6 Feb

Tides change, months and years go by, websites and apps take over the world, and we still can’t drive our cars. No only cane we not drive our cars, but any other form of public transportation either doesn’t exist or is dangerous. But Saudi is full of entrepreneurs and businessmen eager to start something that will make tons of money. What I don’t understand is WHY HASN’T ANYONE SOLVED OUR DRIVER PROBLEM???!!

So far, the most common way of finding a driver is sending out a whatsapp broadcast and having your friends ask their drivers if they know anyone looking for a job. How efficient. Talk about desperate times…

idea-girl

So, if any of you are looking for a lucrative, profitable business, listen closely because I’m about to offer you the business opportunity of the year. Yes it needs a bit of a hefty investment, but trust me, the returns will be worth it.

1- Bring in a fleet of, say, 100 cars to begin with. Brand them nicely with your website on the back.

2- Hire and train capable drivers for those cars. They can be local, but they have to know the roads, wear a clean uniform (opportunity to design your own branded thobes) and have basic manners and communication skills. They have to know that if they make any client uncomfortable or harass her, there will be consequences. They also have to have good benefits and achievable targets/shifts to ensure that they stay on.

3- Get a programmer to design an app like the one Addison lee has in the UK (http://www.addisonlee.com/). Make sure its in Arabic as well. This app will require the pick up time, location, and drop off location. It then provides you with the fee quotation, and sends a text message to your phone with the driver’s car plate and phone number when he has arrived at the pickup point.

4- A modest online campaign or a viral one and You’re ready to go! Just sit back and watch the money roll in.

 

Addison lee is not the only car pick up service available in the UK. and I’m sure there are many more as well around the world. So why is it so difficult and expensive to get a decent ride? or cheap and dangerous. These illegal drivers are still on the rode, operating their own fleet via word of mouth. My friends were joking the other night about how they are all using the same driver to the point where he tells one about the whereabouts of the other, especially if they got dropped off at the same location!

 

So yeah, and takers out there?? Come on we need to use these apps to our advantage!

How Candy Crush has Saved My Realationship With My Driver

4 Feb

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I’m going to admit to a slight addiction to the notorious Candy Crush. But since I have a fear of Addictions, I limit my use to certain locations… before bed, when I wake up, in the umm… “loo” , and in the car. That last bit has probably saved my driver from having me freak out on him for wrong turns, taking the long way, flashing his lights at cars, weaving in and out of traffic, and various other annoying to dangerous driving habits that my otherwise un-preoccupied self would have jumped at.

Basically I’m not paying attention to his driving, or the road, or the idiots and the road. Not backseat driver, a lot less stress.

So Thank you Candy Crush. You might be a huge waste of time, but in this case, you’ve been very useful!

No way out

6 Nov

There’s a saying in arabic,
لا يرحم الناس ولا يخلي رحمة ربنتا تنزل
It means “he doesn’t show mercy to people nor does he let God’s mercy come down”
It is said when someone does not give you an alternative.  No way out.
With the current ministry of labor crackdown,  most illegal drivers’ legal papers are still being processed,  taking forever because the ministry is totally overloaded.  Some drivers have been here for so long,  totally evading the system that they do not exist,  making it even more difficult,  if not impossible to correct their status.
The “driver for hire” companies are so overloaded that they stopped answering calls of desperate women looking for a ride.
There is no form of safe clean public transportation.
We women are still not allowed to drive.

The only option left is the reckless unreliable and somtimes dangerous taxi drivers in the street. Or the local interpretation of “taxi”.

The problem with bringing in a driver from abroad on your own sponsorship is not only that it’s very expensive,  but also that you can’t test-drive them. Or interview them in person. You risk a lot of money for someone whose only driving experience may be that of driving a rickshaw,  which I’m sure you’ll agree is not the same as a car.

A small part of me hoped this crackdown on illegal workers was a step towards legalising our driving status. I keep being rudely woken up by reality.
What are we supposed to do?

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