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 drivers’ day off…. I get 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 to ask a man to work on his day off.
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’d respect the boundaries of who’s assigned to who. Especially since I get complaints if I make use of his driver. Oh well…. #saudigirlproblems
… 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.
Hilarious episode from the vlogger “Noon Al Niswa”, she answers the question of “Who is the Most important man in Saudi women’s life?” with “The Driver!”
You gotta hand it to her, she mentions some of the funniest situations…
So I was in my friend’s car the other day, and she commented about how although her driver doesn’t know the roads, he’s chill and doesn’t talk so she likes him. Just needs to train him. And it dawned on me: we each are looking for something different in our drivers. To some, driving safely isnt a must, but being abke to manuver and drive fast is. To others its also important how their driver looks and dresses because they feel its a reflection on themselves. I remember one friend was so used to arab and ethiopian drivers that when she had a phillipino she still insisted he wear the thobe and ghutra as a work uniform. Honestly it was pretty funny watching him struggle with his new outfit and trying to balance the headgear. I felt sorry for him.
Body odor and personal hygene are an important issue. The driver I had a fight with last week refuses to use deo because “he’s allergic”. If I have to sit in the same car as him ever again I’m pretty sure I’m going to break out in hives.
Not talking too much is another trait some look for. That includes not eavesdropping, gossiping, or talking back. Then again, I’ve had drivers that cant even confirm if they heard you and understood you or not.
Someone reliable and trustworthy is important as well. I think you can bunch these two together just because they have to do with trust. Normally you find out if your driver is those two only after several months and sometimes years. To me, if I catch him lying about small things like where he is or gas money, hes on the blacklist to be replaced ASAP.
Knowing the city and the roads is always a plus. Its such a headache taking the wrong turn and winding up getting stuck in a jeddah weekend traffic jam. And as my sister once said “if you see s car suddenly break in the middle of the road, then turn left from the right lane after some hesitation, chances are its girls trying to explain to their driver where to go only he reacted too slow”.
That’s one more point: quick reflexes. Cuz slow drivers here are dangerous.
Oh, and how could I forget: languages. English or arabic or both or none. I think some women communicate with their drivers in sign language. We normally need one that can read English for reading our grocery list.
Also, as sad as this may sound, I’d probably prefer a non-muslim driver, just so I don’t have to worry about getting stuck somewhere for an hour at every prayer time. If he had his rug with him and made-do whenever the mosque wasn’t available I’d be fine with that. But many drivers are in the mosque before athan and the last to leave and I call that exploitation.
In a way, its quite complicated finding the ideal driver for you and your needs. Perhaps as complicated as finding a husband! Haha, Have I forgotten
anything? Let me know!