How Annoying Are The Convoys of Lebanese Politicians?

I was going back home to Batroun on Friday, stuck in typical traffic overload in Jounieh, when a GMC Yukon suddenly appears behind me, flashing my eyes out for me to give him the left lane.

It was late at night. The right lane was all blocked with cars. It was beyond obvious I couldn’t change lanes except if I wanted to cause some interesting car accident for news services to report the following day. And still he flashed his headlights on and off at me.

Soon enough, when the right lane barely managed to clear, the GMC car bypassed me with another similar car immediately behind it. Up to that point, I had thought it was just one of your regular Lebanese douchebag drivers who think they’re in more hurry than everyone else. However, both GMC cars were exactly the same color and make. They were without license plates and both of them were acting as if the highway belonged to their mother.

A few minutes later, I saw similar headlights beaming at my rear-view mirror. I manage to cede lanes. And behold: two similar GMC cars, without license plates, same color and make. It was another of case of Lebanese politician highway-titis.

Those 4 cars managed to hijack the highway for my entire trip back home. They try to block you from passing them if you tried. And that wasn’t the first time nor was it the last time in recent days when I ran into such convoys.

A few months prior, 4 similar cars created some sort of a cross on the highway, occupying all three lanes, effectively blocking the entire traffic behind them: 2 cars in the central lane and one on each side. I had no idea what they were so I tried to go past them. They almost rammed by car into the separator. It was my one and only warning.

Yesterday, as I took a cab to the Beiruti neighborhood of Hamra, we encountered a fancy car with a “parliament” license plate. That vehicle didn’t care we had right of passage. It almost slammed into us as it tried to overtake us. Douchy Lebanese driving, perhaps. But at least they had a license plate this time.

So the question is: how annoying are the convoys of Lebanese politicians? Very.

Perhaps the extra security measures are warranted. But how can I explain the lack of license plates, for instance? What’s to say those four cars are for some major politician from the North and not for some criminal who knows his way among high-end people? And how is a politician allowed to break the law just because he is whoever he is, effectively making the lives of other Lebanese a worse driving hell because no one dares to double cross those tainted cars that rule the road when they pass?

Our politicians are the primary douches of driving. The mark of the sophistication of a country’s ruling class starts with the way they drive. Let’s just say our politicians drive as if the highway is their jungle.

And you know what’s worse? We’re paying for that.

Lebanon’s New Driving Law

Behold! Lebanon has a new driving law – and it stands at a whopping 197 pages! (check it here). Who knew our driving regulations were that developed?

I personally didn’t bother reading it because 1) I have no idea how it differs from the previous version and 2) no one will abide by it – not even our security forces who are supposed to enforce it. But I’ve linked it just because some of you are short on fun things to do.

When it comes to driving in this country, what’s on paper has nothing to do with what’s actually on our roads. When will our politicians realize that their attempts at regulating that are futile at best?

Driving in Lebanon will forever be as follows:

  • - You will use your left hand as indicator at all times. If you have a passenger with you in the car, his right hand will serve as your right indicator. This is non-disputable.
  • - There are no lanes. If the axis of your car isn’t alined with those dashed lines, you’re not doing it right.
  • - There are no maximum speed limits. You just keep going and going and going as long as traffic permits. If by some random chance you stumble on someone going at the speed limit, you will use your high beams to temporarily blind them.
  • - There are no minimum speed limits. You are allowed to text and whatsapp and tweet and update your Facebook status as you drive slower than a turtle on the left lane. No one is allowed to be annoyed by this.
  • - Red lights are for decorative purposes only. If you see someone waiting for it to go green, you will honk their ears off. It’s only appropriate – your time is golden and they’re wasting it.
  • - That pedestrian light is simply there to entertain you with its constant glowing. Green means go and red means go. Pedestrian gets squashed? Who cares.
  • - The pedestrian light is also there to entertain pedestrians. Whether it’s red or light holds no bearing on whether they should cross or not. The rule is as follows: look left. Look right. Read, set, go!
  • - Nothing comes between you and your favorite snack place. If it means triple parking in the middle of the road then so be it. You will park wherever you please, whenever you please. Unless there’s a politician passing by. Or the entire street is taken by valet parking. If someone dares to take your parking spot, bloodshed will be permitted. Refer to your favorite local militia for assistance.
  • - Your car being unsuitable for driving is no problem whatsoever. A renault 12 without doors, without a roof, without headlights and with an engine that almost dies every few minutes is the standard. If your car is better than that, it’ll pass.
  • - Think of road signs as year-long Christmas decorations. Some of them are ugly. Others are more creative. But they are all useless. Example: A one way street sign means this particular street is always two-ways. Always. The imbecile who put it there was not thinking straight.
  • - If by some random chance some policeman decides to hand you a $50 ticket, you will grab your $1000-worth smartphone and call your favorite politician or that policeman’s superior then hand the phone over. Once the policeman cowers away in terror and rips your ticket in tiny little pieces, you will leave the scene of the crime with your dignity intact.

And that’s how you do it. That new law can shove it.

David Letterman on Driving in Beirut

Don’t mind his guest, Justin Bieber.

“If you can drive in New York City, it’s like driving in Beirut. You’ll be just fine.”

And of course you have the torrential Lebanese commentators who are proud of driving like baboons in Lebanon.


Kunhadi’s New Year’s Eve Ads

For those who like to party hard on NYE and then drive back home, Lebanon’s NGO Kunhadi has an ad right for you – and it is simply great.

The campaign has two components: a video and a poster, both of which are making the viral rounds because of their very sincere message and the simplicity with which they were made.

The posters:

Kunhadi - NYE Poster

For non-Lebanese readers, the ad says: your parents are staying up on New Year’s Eve for you to come back. Don’t drink and drive.

The YouTube video to accompany this poster is:

You have to give it to Kunhadi. Their ads are always poignant and emotional. I also remember their Mother’s Day ad was brilliant as well.

And on another note, is it just me or is the Lebanese marketing scene becoming way more creative than it used to be? First there was the Lebanese Brew ad, then there was the Nadine Labaki Johnnie Walker one, followed by Fransabank and then MAD Beirut. 

But no matter… hopefully the message in this video comes across. And what’s more important is for those who are going to parties to be aware not to get into cars with drunk stubborn friends who refuse to take a cab.

200 Km/h

I woke up today to the news that a friend of mine had passed away at 4 am on Sunday, June 12th.

Age? 31. Cause of death: Car accident. Approximate car speed: 200 km/h

The man’s neighbors woke up to the sound of his mom weeping and shouting. So the next time you and your friends decide to race on a Lebanese highway going at a ridiculous speed, at least have a flashback to your mother’s face and how devastated she would be if you were no longer there to speak to her, hug her or kiss her cheek.

My friend’s car went into a collision with an SUV. It was a convertible BMW and he didn’t have his seat-belt on. He got propelled over forty meters on the tarmac, out of the car.

So a word of advice for the next time you decide to turn your car into a space shuttle wannabe: don’t. Or at least put the seatbelt on – unless you’re experimenting with human projectiles.