Monday, June 4, 2007

There's the Third World, and then there's Baghdad

Prayer beads wrapped around a taxi's gearshift. Not a comforting combination.

I’ve driven countless places in the Third World, but Baghdad drivers are among the very worst. Yes, even worse than Miami. I was stuck today in a traffic jam, three lanes going each way with a median between. Traffic jams are a normal thing in the city, but when it’s 120 degrees and occasional gunfire, there’s bound to be drama. I watched, not one but several, drivers trying to make their way up the wrong side of the street; forcing their way through a sea of static cars going the other way! I’ve seen cars drive down medians or break down lanes, but never try to go up a choked off street against traffic. I was simply amazed.

There are special challenges driving security vehicles here. The first of which is that the windows don’t roll down. That, coupled with the fact that you’re wearing 30 lbs of body armor and it’s 120 degrees outside makes for some interesting times. I once estimated that if the car’s air conditioner ever quit that we would have about ten minutes to get to somewhere safe before we baked like a muffin inside the car.

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