One of the drawbacks of our stay here (maybe the only drawback, actually) is that we have to be long-distance commuters. There is no sensible place for us to stay in the Bekaa, and additionally that would cut the volunteers off from Beirut’s various attractions. A coach picks us up each morning at 6.45, luckily for Val and me from right outside our apartment block, and drops us at the school just before 9. The return journey is even longer, as the bus has to negotiate the city rush hour – no easy matter given Beirut’s narrow streets.
The traffic here is not as scarily anarchic as in some countries – they obey the traffic lights, and mostly stick to their own side of the road (except for the motor-scooters, who go where they want). But beyond that, it is every man (and woman – plenty of women drivers here) for themselves. Pull straight out from junctions, overtake whenever (vaguely) possible and force oncoming traffic to squeeze over, create additional lanes on the inside, outside, middle, wherever there’s room, or even if there isn’t…
It’s as though every driver is in a huge game of chicken, and he who hesitates is lost. The merest sign of weakness, or concern for your paintwork, and the other driver has nosed in front. Or across. Or whatever. Giving way? That’s for wimps.
As for pedestrians, much the same applies: you step into the road with the blind faith that the driver would probably rather not hit you.