3 ton Privilege pt 2.

 

Day 2: Intensive course

Much like an excited child I went to my class, only to wait in line. Have no fear, segregation is here! Saudi citizens of course, got preferential treatment and entered first(Any non-Saudi’s in the class were applying to a public license, allowing them to drive Taxi’s etc..) . The class had a relatively excited and fun instructor, that did nothing other than control the crowd. Instead of teaching us anything, he simply put on a video of all the questions that might come on the exam in all the languages that were available. Don’t speak Arabic? Tough luck, you’ll have to sit through it in silence and waste your time. Even if your language had passed, you weren’t even allowed to leave the class for a breath of fresh air, we all had to sit in a small room, breathing each other’s breath for 2 hours before the instructor asked us to go out with him to the field. Standing in the field, exposed to the 12pm sun in the 45° C heat, the instructor entered his cooled car and showed us what the exam procedure was. Parallel parking, sharp turns, 2 roundabouts connected to each other and a cross terrain, it all seemed so unnerving and I felt like I would finally have the exam that is required to let me know that it’s not as simple as I thought it would be. We all returned to the class, people literally running to get the good seats, hell to get seats in general, seeing that the class was so full some people had to stand. A few minutes later, the instructor entered with stacks of papers that had the names and which days the exams were to be taken at. The first names were pretty much all expats, with dates as far as a month later. When it came to the Saudi applicants, the instructor simply asked “Would you like to do it tomorrow?”, naturally everyone wants to finish as fast as possible and everyone nodded in agreeance, myself included.

3 ton privilege

Driving a 3 ton machine at speeds over 120KM/h is a great responsibility, kind of like Spiderman and his wrist jizz. However, it seems that in Saudi Arabia this responsibility is taken lightly. Nothing illustrates how bad the driving is in Saudi Arabia more than the fact that it has the highest road accident death toll in the world. While, many blame drifting and x-sport like antics by testosterone infused and sexually frustrated Saudi youth, there’s an unspoken rule about driving rules and regulation being a preference rather than a necessity when it comes to the roads. Police men are spotted breaking more road laws than the citizens, and if they’re not driving around with their sirens on for no reason, they’re probably wasting time sitting in their car parked under a bridge, or on rare occasions exercising and running around said bridge. If lazy policemen that do not enforce the law wasn’t enough, obtaining a driver’s license is as simple as turning left and reversing to the right; literally. As a 21 year old Saudi, not having a driver’s license is the same as missing a testicle, in general driving your own car is integral to a man’s image in society. Through my teenage years; the time I started thinking about driving a car,  I was growing up in Europe. A European driver’s license requires a decent amount of studying, training and a substantial financial set back. In Saudi Arabia, however, it took me 3 days, and no training.

 

  Day 1: Registration and assessment

Registration is paying 250 Riyals ($67), filling a few forms and then going into the assessment room. Assessment may seem like a detailed examination of your very being, at least that’s what it seemed like to me at the time. Assessment turned out to be a man asking me what my blood type was; honestly, I had no idea what it was, but telling him “A negative” was enough. After guessing my own blood type it was time for the sight test. While waiting in line, I realized that the test wasn’t much more than the retard offspring of “W” and an “M” going in all 4 directions, and you simply have to tell the tester where it’s pointing. A future expat driver made a mistake, the tester corrected him, signed his paper and allowed him to continue, I feel safer already.  With a newfound sense of safety and knowledge of my bloodtype, I proceeded to the driving assessment. My nerves hadn’t settled by then, I still had a bit of hope (Or fear) that the driving assessment may just be the hardest part. Needless to say, at this point I shouldn’t have expected anything other than disappointment. A car was waiting for me, after a crude comment about my jeans was made by the obese security guard sitting by the gates. The instructor tells me to sit in the back seat, a Syrian teenager was sitting in the front. I spark a conversation with him, and ask him what the assessment is like, he laughed and asked me if I was a Saudi citizen, I said yes and what he said highlighted the true privilege I had by just having a plastic card that said I was a Saudi. “If you’re a Saudi, you automatically get an A, and any other nationality, you get a B”. Now the way the system is set, if you get an “A” you have to go to 1 class and then you can do your driving and theory exams. If you get a “B” you have to attend 3 classes (We’ll get to what they are on day 2) .  I wasn’t surprised when the poor fellah got a “B” on his assessment, while I can assure you he can drive better than me. My turn! I get in the driver’s seat, the instructor see’s I’m Saudi and doesn’t even let me finish putting on my seat belt before telling me to just turn left and get out of the car after writing a crude “A” on my paper. After waiting, I finally got the opportunity to pay 100 Riyals ($27) for my intensive course on road signs.

 

Tomorrow is another day.  

Ramadan & Eid: Sponsored by McDonald’s

 This is the second Ramadan I spend in Saudi Arabia. My first stay wasn’t all that eye opening, I spent it going to family member’s houses and eating there. This time around however, I’m spending it with my own family, and I got to see exactly how Ramadan is in the country where it originated; Saudi Arabia. June was ending and Ramadan was about to start, it was all over the place. I couldn’t turn the T.V on without being bombarded by commercials on all the Ramadan deals coming my way. The first day of Ramadan was the farthest thing from a proper religious experience. People rushed to supermarkets to fill their houses with copious amounts of food. The average Saudi citizen’s day changed from waking up in the morning to waking up in the late afternoon a few minutes before feeding time, and if they aren’t asleep they’re wreaking havoc on the streets with reckless driving and starvation induced anger. Ramadan, sadly, has turned from a month where we learn how to cope with a lack of food into a reason to postpone our own gluttony and indulge it with each other; all while feeling superior to non-muslims. It seems like Ramadan is a 30-day long Thanksgiving including the commercials, gluttony and greed. 

 

Tl;dr: Ramadan is just another Hallmark holiday.