Stories from Afar & Up Close

Pure logic

Traffic in Lebanon is chaotic, to put it mildly. Major crossroads in Beirut are puzzles of honking cars, inching around each other, blocking everyone's way, trying to get to the other end in complete disregard of all the other traffic. Sometimes, there is a policeman trying to bring some order to the chaos, but more often than not the assigned officer gives up after half an hour of being completely ignored, yelled at and (almost) driven over. I don't blame the poor guys - getting Lebanese people in cars to follow a certain structure, the personal benefit of which is not immediately clear, is an impossible task indeed. But what do I know? Today my service-driver swirved his way around garbage-bins, passed two cars on the right and then threw his steering wheel all the way to the left to switch lanes and get across the intersection. One of the passengers pointed at the policeman who was frantically waving his stick to get people to follow his directions. 'Uh huh,' said the driver, 'if I do what he says, I will never get across!' 'Yeah,' added the other passenger with an accusing nod of the head towards the officer, 'have you noticed? There's always a traffic-jam when there is a policeman trying to arrange traffic!'

I guess it's the Lebanese version of the chicken-and-egg conundrum.