I have road rage. I openly admit to this. My road rage only ever appears when I’m driving in Cairo, though. And I’ve driven in many places in the world.
My father had road rage. Growing up, it made me proud to watch him get out of the car on a narrow road and block another car heading in the opposite direction and not letting him get by. You go get him, Baba! I’d think to myself. He’s a mouse, that man! An ant! He’s unworthy of this road upon which you treadeth! I wouldn’t even know why Baba was blocking his way. And I wouldn’t care. It was great entertainment. I loved every minute of it.
My Baba has a well-known story that I was not witness to but I can see it in my head as if I were. He was driving in front of our house in Cairo and a bus driver, upset with something related to his driving, yelled out an obscenity to my Baba insulting his beard. Wohohoho. That idiot had no idea what a big mistake he made. My Baba maneuvered his car right in front of the huge, red bus and prevented it from moving further. He got out of the car in a rage, moved toward the trunk, opened it, pulled out the jack, and rushed towards the bus driver’s door with the intent of smashing his head in. He opened the door and started pulling the driver out of his seat. But by that time people had gathered and started pulling my Baba away (as people here are accustomed to ruining the best Cairo street fights this way).
As you can see, nothing actually happened here. There was just the threat of something happening. Usually here in Cairo, that’s enough to calm us down. There are always enough bystanders willing to intervene to prevent anything from actually happening. Maybe that’s why we feel so secure in our road rage. We know nothing will really happen no matter how ugly we get.
Anyone who has been in a car with me, my children especially, knows that I am my father’s daughter. I can’t count the times I’ve gotten out of my car to attempt to engage in a fist fight with a driver who got on my bad side. And if you irritate me for any reason while we are on the same road, I will pursue you and make your life miserable for at least a few minutes. I do this either by honking your head off during the day, flashing my bright headlights in your mirror at night, or making mad dashes to frighten you by cutting you off as often as I can.
I am easily irritated. I firmly believe that no one in Cairo knows how to drive. Most other drivers in Cairo feel this same way about themselves. If I’m driving along an average street that isn’t moving very fast and the driver ahead of me has left a full car space in front of him empty, he will regret that he decided to leave the house that day. I detest the slow drivers, the safe drivers, the fast drivers, and the unsafe drivers. I hate the women drivers, the old people drivers, and the child drivers. And as I’m driving, I’ll be yelling out to most of my fellow drivers (in my head): “If you’re too sissy to drive on the streets of Cairo, you shoulda stayed home, you idiot!”
This morning I was driving, as I normally do, down Pyramids Street. The street was quite crowded with cars; five lanes of cars fitting into what is actually a two lane street. That’s all fine with me. I hate seeing extra space on the road. It makes me feel like it could be used to get just that much closer to my destination. I suddenly became aware of a pretty red car (I’ve never been able to tell the make of a car by sight) pushing itself forward on my left. The driver was scrunching me between him and the bus to my right. It seemed like he was fighting for that small bit of space ahead of me and I was not going to have it. He had come up from behind. That means – in my mind – that this area of road was mine. How dare he try to squeeze me to the side so that he could get ahead of me?? This was not going to happen. I slammed on the accelerator and would not allow him to inch ahead of me. He was that much bolder and slammed on his accelerator and did inch ahead of me. Wohohoho. This man did not know what he just got himself into. I started to pursue him, slamming on my accelerator and breaks intermittently to give the impression that I was just about to smash into his pretty red car. I was hoping this would last a bit. But he then made a left turn. He had to slow down to do this so I opened my window and yelled out, “What kind of dirty driving is that in the morning?? (أيه السواقة الوسخة دي على الصبح؟؟)”. He heard me because his window was open. He opened his door, got out of the car, and headed towards me. Again, I shouted, “What kind of dirty driving is that in the morning?” using my best truck driver voice. He retorted, “Hey! I can yell and insult very well but I choose not to because you are a woman!” I was not going to have any of that! So I say, “Oh! Please feel free to yell and insult all you want!” to which he seemed not to be able to think of much to say. (Side note: if he had used bad language and insults my response would have been, “How dare you speak that way to a woman?? Did your mother not raise you to respect the opposite sex??”) So he headed back to his car yelling, “Disgusting women!” To which I replied, “Disgusting women??” (Can you tell that I’m not very good at this banter stuff? I want to be. I really really want to be. But I can never think of a good reply fast enough). I then yelled back, “Disgusting men!!” thinking, “that will show him!” He then turned around and yelled, “I swear to divorce my wife three times if….” (علي الطلاق بالثلاثة…) . I didn’t hear the rest of that sentence. I was sort of dumbfounded that the man was so disgusted with me that he felt his wife deserved to be divorced. So I yelled, “You just go ahead and divorce your wife! What do I care anyway??” And then I yelled, “What does your wife have to do with this situation anyways??” It was then that he got into his car and left me. And I left him.
It took me just about one minute driving forward in my car until I started laughing loudly. I thought, now that was a fellow Egyptian driver I could say I was proud to be driving the streets of Cairo with. This guy was my kind of driver. This guy was no sissy. He knows how to play the game. He knows how to express himself when he’s angered by another fellow driver. And he’ll pull out the sexist card so that I can pull out my sexist card. He wasn’t afraid of doing that. I nodded to myself with a smirk of pride on my face.
The rest of my drive was pretty eventless. But I’ll tell you. I walked into my office this morning feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. My morning started well, thank you very much!