Sunday, November 14, 2010

I can drive, but do I really want to?

It is a relatively easy thing to get a driver's license in Abu Dhabi provided you have a valid Canadian driver's license, a current residence visa, an official Emirates ID card, and have had your license translated into Arabic and then had the translation certified by the Canadian embassy. Simple, huh? However, after dutifully jumping through all of the requisite hoops, I hit a little snag a few weeks back when I tried to get that little piece of plastic that would qualify me to purchase and/or drive a vehicle here. Unbeknownst to me, there was a slight omission on the translation of my driver's license. Apparently my driver's license number was left off (I can now recognize Arabic numerals, but I don't know if this would have even helped me at the time). Now, the woman entering in the information for my license spoke and read enough English to recognize what was missing and she had before her both a copy of my license and the original to verify that the translation was correct. But I've learned that the thing that reigns supreme in any bureaucracy is paperwork, and without perfect paperwork there was simply nothing to be done.

Now this was a little frustrating. Not only had I jumped through those hoops and paid all of my fees, I had also taken the morning off from my classes to get this done. I called my contact at the college to see what could be done (finding ways to work in and around the system is what he does) and he suggested that I talk to the manager. It wasn't hard to find the guy in charge. He had a spacious office and a large desk that was remarkably devoid of any paperwork. He was talking with who I assume was his second in command, but when he saw me in the doorway I was welcomed with a smile. The manager wore an impressive uniform and carried that air of insouciance that accompanies authority of any kind.

I explained my problem to him, but he seemed more interested in making small talk. Where was I from? What was I doing in Abu Dhabi? Where did I teach? He wasn't in any hurry and, I guess, neither was I. I told him a bit about myself, and learned that his wife was also a teacher. "Teach me some English," he said to me. I taught him how to use the word 'awesome.' What else was I going to teach him?

He exchanged some words with his lieutenant in Arabic and then made a few scribbles onto the translated document and sent me on my way. When the girl at the counter started to object to my faulty translation, I just had to point at her boss's signature and all was good and well.

A view of where we live from outside. (our
apartment is the one without curtains)

I was tempted when talking to the manager to get to the heart of the problem and get the thing solved, but I resisted that inclination and allowed myself to follow the circuitous route of our conversation. Eventually it got where it needed to go. I just needed to exercise a little patience. I've seen westerner attempt to exact western customer service temper tantrums and intimidation because they're unwilling to compromise on what they see as the right way of doing things. It never works, though. All that frustration does little more than raise blood pressure.

James got a new toy sword!
So, now I've got my driver's license, but no car. I still don't know if we're getting a car. It's not the driving here that scares me, though it is a little intense. The thing that worries most is finding a parking spot, and with the price of cabs and the close proximity of pretty much everything we need, I don't know if that's a stress I want to introduce into my life just now.