ravings, rantings and ramblings
If one were to ask for directions in the UAE, there is only one certainty and that is one would be pretty directionless. It is indeed the mother-of-all hilarious situations! At the cost of the seeker getting frustrated, the situation does have a great humour value. The reasons are aplenty. Here’s why.
First of all, the people in question don’t know where they are located. There is a reason why I keep my hair short in Dubai. Occasions to tear my hair out of exasperation have been many. Imagine calling up a hotel where I am put me on hold as soon as I complete my query. I have memorised the campy music-on-hold when the reservations desk asks me why I am calling! Breathe! I keep my composure and ask for directions to their hotel (and mind you, they are a top-notch group) and the voice ‘err’s and ‘umm’s to say that they do not know how I could get there. Incidentally I was 7 kilometres away from them! Of course there is a problem that UAE faces and that is streets that are not properly named or have no name at all. In some places, they are all named after cities, so the instructions go something like “go straight on Beirut and you will see Cairo on your right, from there take a U-turn on to Amman and you should be there”. Google Earth anyone?
Second, even if they know where they are, they do not know to explicitly explain. Chances of this happening to you are rather high. How many times did you lose yourself in the ambling voice that is thinking on your time like white noise on TV? The instructions begin with a guttural ‘aaaa’, followed by a few quick words of English that are delivered in a hurry, some more ‘aaaaa’ and a few more words whispered in a rush, some more ‘aaaaa’ though this time a wee bit longer and that is the end of the instruction! Could you please repeat that without the onomatopoeia of a toy car on gravel please?
Third, there isn’t any guarantee that you would be able to comprehend the accent on the phone. Sure I love the fact that UAE is a multi-cultural melting pot. Every third face on the street is a different nationality. However, you luck really runs out if you have certain nationalities speak to you. Syllables, consonants and their cousins get so convoluted that you would rather use sign language. Alas! There is no way to do that over phone. Instructions could sound like the following sentences:
Dribe straight for pipty metres and park at the gate, serrr. OR
Drrive strraight ‘aaaaaa’ for fifty metres ‘aaaa’and bark at the gate. OR
Drayi straight-ah for fifteh metres… fi serow fifteh… and park at the gate, eh!
However, all of this aside, there is a winning instruction that deserves an award. When asked where I could find a certain building, I was told, “We are located in the backside of the building”.