See Jack. See Jack drive. See Jack have nervous breakdown…

Posted on Wednesday 8 November 2006

I know I have posted about cars and the traffic here and how it is rather chaotic.

Well events have conspired against me and I had to drive today.

I needed to get from Cairo to 6 October City. It is an “industrial zone” with some housing and business and what not. It is about 30km from Cairo.

The university has cars (and drivers) available for faculty for a fee. They had no cars available at the time I needed to go.

No problem. I have the name of a couple of taxi drivers that I trust. I’ll call them. No joy. They are not available.

One of Kaddee’s co-workers offered to lend me her car. I was terrified. But I had no choice.

So, I picked up the car and headed out.

Getting out of Cairo proper is the scary part, but that went very well. Lots of honking and I was actually kind of enjoying the weaving in and out of traffic.

I saw the remains of at least 4 or 5 car accidents on the side of the road. Some of them involving 6 or so vehicles. Some of them minor, a few very serious looking. The biggest danger here is the vast difference in speeds. The limit on this piece of road is 100kmh. I approached people that were barely managing half that speed. And lots of cars do not have functional brake lights. So you really have to pay attention.

So I am driving to 6 October City. I have been there once. And I kinda know where I need to go, but I blow right past where I wanted to be, without realizing it.

So I drive for a few minutes and realize

“None of this looks familiar”

But it is hard to know, because one brown desert hill looks much like every other.

Finally I am sure that I must have missed it. I see one of those ubiquitous informal bus stops on the side of the road near the pullout for “Happy Land”, which is apparently an amusement park. In the middle of nowhere. It is either not finished being built or it is abandoned

These informal bus stops are not marked, but “everyone” knows where they are. There is also a felafel stand and a guy with a tea setup there. There are 2 or 3 buses in there and a few 18-wheelers.

As I pull into the dirt lot I noticed that the pickup truck in front of me is on fire. More accurately, what is in the back of the pickup truck is on fire.

I pull in and stop shorter than I planned to, to stay out of the danger zone and momentarily forget about asking for directions. I grab my little point n shoot camera and hop out of the car.

Allow me to backtrack a little. When I picked up the car this morning, the owner gave me the key and the remote for the alarm and told me how to use it. Pretty standard stuff.

So, when I get to the car, I put the key in the lock and open the car. The alarm immediately goes off. Crap! I frantically push buttons on the remote until the alarm stops.

I sigh, get in the car and drive.

Now, back to the dirt lot with the felafel stand, the tea stand, the buses and the pickup truck on fire.

I hop out of the car with my camera and I hear a noise behind me. It is a noise that one hears thousands upon thousands of times in ones life. An everyday, no one would think twice about, kinda noise.

The noise of a car door closing.

I heard it and my skin crawled. I turned around. The car was still running. The doors and windows were all closed.

And locked.

I speculate that in my frantic button pushing to turn off the damn alarm, i had relocked the car. And, apparently, one can open the car door while it is locked and have it still be locked. If the engine is running. I guess.

So, NSTIW. In BFE with a borrowed car that is now running and locked on the side of the road bordering the desert.

I figured I would just whip out my cell phone and start calling people until I found someone who would know the local equivalent (if there is such) of AAA.

You guessed it. My cell phone is in the car.

All right. Plan B.

I start asking for a cell phone at the bus stop. Problem is, I have no idea what anybody’s phone number actually is, because they are all programmed in my phone. And it’s not like you can call 411 here.

All right. Plan C.

I start asking if anybody can help me unlock the car.

People try all their keys and a screwdriver comes out.

We forage on the side of the road for a flexible piece of metal. No joy. Found a bunch of sticks. The windows have a full metal frame, so you can’t pull the window out to try to get at the locks.

We try to pry back the seal where the window meets the door and fish around with various pieces of wood and a piece of a broken car antenna.

The car antenna breaks, leaving a small piece in the door panel.


After about an hour, we are getting no where.

The nice men have to leave. The bus has been waiting all this time.

I continue on my own. No joy.

All right. Plan D.

I look at the windows. It is a Hyundai small SUV. In the far rear is a little quarter window. It doesn’t open, but it is the smallest piece of glass. I figure it has got to be the cheapest piece to replace.

But I wasn’t sure, that if I broke it, if I could reach a door handle. It was too small for me to crawl through. But I look around and there are plenty of scrawny Egyptians around, so I figured I could get them to do it.

I identify a likely hunk of discarded concrete, but I just can’t bring myself to do it yet. If it had been my car, I would have broken the damn window an hour ago and been on my way.
Another couple of trucks pull in and I decide to try my luck again.

We found more sticks and more screwdrivers.

One guy jammed the screwdriver into the door frame and we were able to pull back the door frame enough to wedge in a piece of wood. After a break we pulled back on it again and wedged the piece of wood in further. Another break. More wood wedging.

We were able to spread the door frame enough that we were able to, after many tries, get a stick in there to push the window button and open a window. (Luckily the car was running, otherwise the window buttons would not have worked)

I gave the nice man LE100 (about US$18). He was very happy. I was very happy.

2 hours later, I am on my way again.

Oh yeah, now I gotta ask for directions…

The funniest part of all this, to me, is that I was going out there to take a cardio stress test. (before you ask, everything is fine).

I finally get to the hospital and the doctor takes my blood pressue and says

“Hmm. it seems a little higher than usual today”

No kidding?

2 Comments for 'See Jack. See Jack drive. See Jack have nervous breakdown…'

    November 17, 2006 | 7:08 am

    Oh what a punch line! I’m still laughing…

    December 6, 2006 | 10:54 am

    hmmmm posted @4:20……hmmmmm

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