Well, I did it. I've driven in Maadi. (Thanks to Mom for reminding me that I hadn't done a blog about it and that some of her friends were getting antsy.)
Last Friday morning, Jeff and I planned to go to church and then straight to the commissary for our weekly shopping, so we decided to just drive to church instead of walking like we usually do. We were running a little late, so Jeff drove. I'm the first to admit that I'm not a confident driver, so no way was I driving for the first time here when we were in a hurry.
Also because we were running late, we didn't have time for breakfast before church, so we decided after church to just walk over to the Maadi House for brunch. So we ate breakfast . . . after that it was time for the commissary run.
I drove. As we approached our Ford Explorer, Jeff tossed me the keys. After we got in and I started the vehicle, Jeff reminded me to put the side mirror back out. Before I came to Egypt, I hadn't even realized that the side mirrors folded in. Here it's crucial when parking on the street to put the mirrors in; even that doesn't always save you from having them scraped or knocked off, but it minimizes the likelihood. So I rolled down the window and popped out the mirror, then checked and adjusted all three mirrors. Jeff had parked on the side of a street pointing the way we needed to go, so I just pulled out and went. (Unlike many local drivers, I did look to make sure I wasn't pulling out in front of anyone.)
The first left was a semi-blind turn. The road was at an angle, and there were trees or signs (I forget what) partially obstructing my view. I looked as well as I could then just went for it. As we proceeded to the commissary, I got a little giddy. I hadn't driven in almost two months, and now I was driving again. It felt like I was really free to travel around Cairo for the first time. (I know, it's actually easier in most cases to take cabs, and I can get anywhere I need to go with them, but it's a psychological boost to be able to get yourself where you want to go without relying on anyone else.) Besides, I just enjoy driving, even though I'm not all that great at it.
Jeff had to remind me of a couple of the turns. On previous trips to the commissary, I've remembered all the turns, but I was paying attention to other things while behind the wheel. Things like whether or not someone was going to come flying out of a side street or how I'm going to navigate around all the cars that are parked on the street near that mosque. Traffic was very light for Maadi, as it usually is on Fridays, so there weren't any real heart-stoppers, but I was prepared for them anyway.
One thing I hadn't really realized before was how steep the speed bumps are. The speed bumps here are an adventure in themselves. They're not always yellow, or sometimes they're only yellow at the end because the paint has worn off in the middle, so they blend in with the road. They also don't stay in the same place-a speed bump may appear or disappear overnight, so you can never be certain where they are. Sometimes where there used to be a speed bump, there's a trough instead. Some, but not all, of the speed bumps have silver reflective things on the road before you get to them. But if they don't, you don't always see them in time to slow down appropriately. If you don't slow down enough, you can catch a little air off them. Trust me on this one. Jeff is very concerned about the Explorer's shocks.
It was kind of fun not worrying about lanes. If someone was in front of me and I wanted to go the speed they were going, I naturally lined up behind them, no matter where in the road they were. If I wanted to pass them, I did. On the left, on the right, it didn't matter. No blinkers necessary, just be prepared to honk the horn if they start to drift over into you. And be aware that if you start to drift over into someone else, they'll use their horns to let you know they're there. Drifting around all over the road isn't a problem at all. If there's a hole on each side, take the middle. If the speed bump only goes across three fourths of the road, it's quite all right to move from the far left to the far right to go around it. No blinkers, minimal looking (Jeff didn't like that part), no problem. My kind of driving, as long as traffic's light. I have yet to drive in heavy, or even medium, traffic to see how I like that.
I drove again today. It wasn't quite as fun, probably because I just drove last week so it isn't quite as novel. I'm still not looking out for the speed bumps quite enough. Today I forgot to pop the driver's side mirror back out. I didn't miss it. (Jeff groaned when he realized this fact.) When I come back to America, I'm either going to be a great driver or a lousy one. Great if I get to the point where I can drive in heavier traffic without scraping anyone, lousy if I just get used to the laissez-faire style of driving without practicing my limits.