Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Traffic and Groceries

8000 people die each year in road accidents in Egypt, at least that is the statistic floating around. If you do the math, that averages out to about 22 deaths per day, which is almost like someone dying every hour of every day all year long. The number of people injured is several times that amount.

So in honour of that…or horror of that…or in celebration of the fact that none of us have died yet…here are some stories from the recent past. As in today. And Saturday.

We walked home from the Nile after our felucca ride on Saturday which means that we had to cross the Korniche, which includes a mad-dash across several lanes of traffic—3 to 5 at any given time—twice. Andrew led the way carrying Rachel and when he saw a maneuverable break in the traffic went for it. Amanda and Josie followed after him, bleating like sheep.

Unfortunately his route was timed only for one person, not four.

“Hey, guys!” I screamed, “Stop…agggghhhhh!”

I saw visions of squished friends and sisters smeared on the road. Luckily Josie was close enough that she heeded my screams…and obeyed my insistent yank on her arm. Amanda, however, was not so lucky. She woke up from her jet-lagged daze as two cars whizzed by her on either side.

“You can’t just follow Andrew blindly into traffic,” I chided as I collected both girls. “He’s been hit by how many taxis?” I continued once we had all made it safely to the other side.

They got the message loud and clear. I probably didn’t have to say anything. The driver that almost hit Amanda yelled enough for me.

Today I had my own close call. I was walking down Road 250 carrying Miriam, my purse, and the diaper bag. A bus flew past me so closely that it actually hit the diaper bag and pulled it off my shoulder with such force that I almost spun around in a circle. I was so angry since, of course, he had the entire road to himself and I was walking right by the curb.

Then a car came up beside me and thought it would be funny to slowly trail along behind me instead of passing me. This didn’t last too long before I turned around to yell at them to get on their way. It was a carload of young men, of course, who yelled their niceties my way before zipping off.

Some days I just can’t take the traffic here. Or the harassment.

So I got off that road at the next available opportunity and ran into the Seoudi delivery boy on his bike.

“Hello! I have your groceries!” he smiled and waved and then started riding behind me. I told him he could ride in front so that he didn’t have to stare at my butt for the rest of the way home—although I merely asked him to lead the way without mentioning my butt at all—so he did. He rode so painfully slowly that he was teetering this way and that and even when I assured him that he could go on without me, he wouldn’t.

After he brought the groceries up he waited for his tip, naturally. I handed him all the change in my wallet, which was 4.75 LE.

“No, ma’am,” he said, but didn’t leave.

“Here,” I said, offering him the money again.

“That is small money!” he scoffed, squaring his shoulders and rooting his feet into the floor.

I wasn’t in a mood to be trifled with.

“It isn’t small money. It’s fine money and it’s all I have to offer.”

He took it grudgingly and left.

The farther Seoudi Market is usually better stocked and it can be on my way home from tutouring if I go that way but I think more expats must shop there because their delivery boys are never satisfied with anything. The delivery boys at “our” Seoudi Market are happy with whatever we offer them and sometimes even leave (in an un-offended manner) without taking the baksheesh we offer because they already get paid a wage, pithy as it is. I suppose I am a firm believer in the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers,” so if you are wanting money you take the money offered, or is that not how the saying works? I, frankly, don’t earn enough money to tip more than 5 LE for a ten minute bike ride. I earn about $1.60 in ten minutes—and I have a bachelor’s degree—so I think the delivery guy should be happy with his 85 cents. But perhaps I’m cold-hearted.

*Sigh* just a bad Egypt day today, I guess.


  1. Is this what I have to put up with when I move to Cairo in a month!?! ;-)

    Seriously, though, I need to just stick to reading your Cairo-is-great posts or I'll never get on that plane with my kids and husband. I'd be lying If I said the traffic/car accidents/crazy driving thing is not FREAKING me out!!

  2. Most of the time Cairo IS great! :)

  3. Now, that's what I want to hear! LOL. :-)

  4. Just think, SOON you'll be here....where you push a button and wait for an electronic device to tell you when to cross the street. Very little brains required. Plus, people here almost always stay on the road (even on their SIDE of the road) and back off YOUR sidewalk. *ahhh....pedestrian bliss*

    In the mean time, please try not to get yourself killed OK?

  5. I hear ya. Darn that 'need for balance' in the universe. ;) Hang in there! Egypt still isn't nice & rosy for me. I just miss the friends!!!