There is a Formula One racetrack in Abu Dhabi. Before I moved here, I had no idea that people “follow” Formula One in much the same way that people follow baseball or football (both the pigskin kind and the run-run-kick kind). The racetrack raises a chicken-and-egg question for me: did they build a racetrack here because Abu Dhabians drive like maniacs, or do Abu Dhabians drive like maniacs because there’s a racetrack in town? Do people in Indianapolis drive like maniacs because of the Indy 500?
The game here seems to be “how fast can you go between stop lights,” a game that’s also known as “ha-ha you didn’t know I was changing lanes, sucka.” Maseratis, Ferraris, Porsches, the occasional Lamborghini, flash by in blurs of color and tail pipes, while the taxi drivers try gamely (terrifyingly) to keep up. In order to move traffic more quickly, major intersections have “free right turn,” a lane that allows cars to turn right without stopping or slowing down for traffic signals or pesky obstacles like pedestrians.
Up until November 3, I thought Abu Dhabi would be a terrifying place to be a driver (it’s also a hair-raising place to be a pedestrian).
What happened on November 3, you ask? Simple. We went to India.
We’d arranged to be picked up from the airport with Namaste Tours and then to have a half-day tour of Delhi the next day with the same driver. We figured that for the rest of our stay in Delhi, we’d manage on our own. Our drive from the airport was so hair-raising, however, we decided on the spot to hire the amazing Prem Singh and his white Innovia mini-van for our entire time in Delhi, and our time in Agra, too. (If you’re ever in that part of India, you want Namaste on your speed dial. In all senses of that word. Trust me. You want Namaste at the wheel). Prem:
Because Prem was driving, we were free to watch (with a white-knuckled grasp on our seatbelts) the Darwinian game of chicken that passes for driving in India.