Sunday, July 23, 2006

Qatari License Part Two

I got to the Al Rayya driving school at about 2pm. It wasn't open but there were plenty on Indian men hanging around to wait with me. There were no seats and no shade so I stood out the front amongst 50 or-so men for about an hour and half until someone arrived and opened the front door. I went to the front desk and told them I was why I was here. They directed me to other other side of the yard to some offices. The men in the offices told my that the Director wasn't here yet so I would have to wait. Once again, no seats, no water, no shade, 45C, ridiculous humidity and lots and lots of Arab and Indian men staring at me.

After two hours, the Director finally arrived. By this stage, I thought I was going to pass out and did not really feel in the right state to be taking a driving test, in a manual car, driving for the first time on the right side of the road with the crazy Qatari drivers. The Director took me into a room to pay for the test. He turned on his computer, then got on the phone and spoke to someone for about 15 minutes. He then got off the phone walked into another room and returned with his interpreter who told me the computers were offline so I would have to come back tomorrow afternoon

I told the interpreter to tell the Director that I had been standing in the sun for the last 4 hours and that I would be taking the test today. He said that this was impossible. I said that this was bordering on ridiculous and that you do not require a computer to do a test. The interpreter told me that I had to be put in the system to take the test. I told the interpreter that the Director should have put me in the computer when I was at the traffic school. The interpreter told this to the Director who laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Inshallah'. This tipped me over the edge and I told the interpreter to tell the Director that I would come back tomorrow, first thing in the morning and that if he failed me, I would kill him. The interpreter said he couldn't say that to the Director but I insisted and so he did. The Director laughed and the interpreter said they would see me tomorrow at the Doha Driving School.

The next morning I caught a taxi out to the Doha Driving School. The taxi driver took me to the Qatar Driving School but insisted it was the same thing. Once inside, a man in military uniform behind the desk informed me that it was not the same thing and that the Doha Driving School was a different driving school quite a way out of town. He said that he was actually on his way out there so could give me a lift. I decided it was safe enough getting in the car with a man who obviously worked for the Ministry of Interior so gratefully accepted his offer.

As we were about to leave, a man wearing the Qatari, white thobe also hopped in the car. They both seemed friendly enough, the man in the thobe didn't speak much English but he got the man in the military uniform to translate for him. He began by just making general conversation courtesy of the military man, 'Where are you from?' 'How long have you been here?' 'Do you have family here?' I answered all the questions for him. Next thing, they pulled up out the front of a restaurant and ordered a whole heap of food and drink for me. Not wanting to look rude I thanked them and ate and drank while they continued to drive.

Then they asked me what my phone number was. I asked why they needed to know and they said they just did. I gave them a fake number and thought that that would be the end of it. The man in the thobe got out his phone and rang the number and when my phone didn't ring he ordered the military man to pull over. He grabbed my leg and yelled at me in Arabic, the military man translated that I should not have given him a fake number. Terrified, I tried to explain that they had just misunderstood me and gave them another number. I then quickly turned off my phone and said that there was no point them trying to ring me again as my phone was flat. Amazingly, they believed me and started driving again.

The questions then started getting more and more personal. They gave me a piece of paper and said to write down my address. Then they wanted to know who I worked for, what department etc etc. They also wrote down their phone number for me and said that I had to call them at 12noon that day so that they could pick me up and take me to lunch at their house. I explained that I would have to work and they said that they would wait for me to finish my driving test and take me to work. The whole time, the man in the thobe kept rubbing my leg and trying to hold my arm.

Eventually we arrived at the driving school which was in the middle of nowhere. I tried to get out of the car but they both grabbed on to me and made me promise I would call them at 12noon. I said I would but then they said they didn't believe me and they would wait just in case. They eventually let me out of the car and I went into the office. I explained who I was there to see and once again, I was directed to the other side of the yard. As I walked across the yard, the two guys followed me closely in their car.

On the other side of the yard was madness with men everywhere and no women. They were all shouting and pushing each other trying to get the man behind a window to take their paperwork. A military man came out and grabbed me and took me into a small office in the back where he said I could wait for the Director. After about half an hour of sitting in this room with a Qatari man who looked about 150 years old and kept poking me with his cane, the Director arrived.

And, I guess that will do for Part Two!


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