Haven't been driving lately because of my torn ligaments. Driving places too much strain on the foot. It's almost like wearing heels. I try on my high heels everyday in the morning when am getting ready for work in the hope that I'll get away with them but I find that even wearing them around the bedroom while I finish getting dressed is excruciatingly painful.
So I've been taking cabs a lot. I never realized what an unpleasant experience travelling around Abu Dhabi by cab can be. To start with - despite the fact that all the taxis are brand new cars which I don't understand because I couldn't keep my car looking that new for 3 months and I don't drive it around town all day the way they do - the cab invariably smells filthy because Abu Dhabian car drivers apparently don't believe in bathing or brushing their teeth. Added to which they all chew tobacco and seem to choose the exact moment when you're holding out your hand with the fare to spit it out of the window, wipe their mouths and then brush your hand as they take the money so that you invariably get it on your hand.
Then there is the rudeness. Unlike cab drivers anywhere else in the world, Abu Dhabi cab drivers don't want you talking to them at all. They're never in a conversational mood. God help you if you should dare to suggest they take a different route because you don't want to be stuck in traffic as you're already late for work. Or if you ask them to slow down. Or lower the volume. They will either totally ignore you, pull over and tell you to take another cab or say something rude and short in a mixture of broken Arabic, Pashtun and/or Urdu.
For years I've listened to friends complaining about having to take cabs and now I understand. Being the spoilt princess that I was my parents never let me take cabs when I was growing up. Either they or one of my brothers always took me everywhere I needed to go. Unless I was going with a friend and someone in her family or their chauffer was picking us up. I got my license the year before I left for college and I was driving my brother's car or my father's since he was out of town a lot. Then when I got back and started working I bought my own car. So being without a vehicle in a city where cabs are the only mode of public transport available has been a new experience.
What can I say about yesterday? I took a cab home after work. As I was getting out infront of my building he felt I was taking too long to get some change out of my bag and started yelling at me. I told him to shut up or I'll call the police and report him and virtually threw the money in his face. By then I had the door open and one foot on the pavement outside the car. And the bastard drove off while I was still getting out of the car. I screamed and people in the street came running gathered around the car so he had to stop. But he'd managed to drag my injured foot on the pavement a few yards and it was KILLING ME. Still I was so frightened of him that I practically threw myself out of the car onto the pavement where I crumpled on the floor with tears of pain streaming down my face.
As luck would have it, my husband was coming out of the building on his way to work. I realized that fact when he suddenly appeared infront of me beating up a perfectly innocent Asian bystander he'd mistaken for the driver. I didn't know whether to laugh or keep crying. When people managed to drag him off the guy and explain that he'd got the wrong guy, he attacked the right guy which wasn't the smartest thing to do considering the fact that by then we were surrounded by about a dozen guys of the same nationality - all cab drivers - who tend to stick up for each other on occasions like this. I couldn't even see him anymore because he - and the driver - were in the middle of this great big mass of people and everytime I tried to get close someone would push me back and I would fall and it would take me ages to get back up again with only one foot functioning.
When the police cars were heard everyone disappeared except my husband and the driver who couldn't disappear because my husband wouldn't let go of him. My husband's face was all messed up, his clothes were torn and there was blood on them. And he never said a word. He just kept throwing punches at the guy and kicking him. I kept screaming at him but it was like he couldn't hear me. Even when all those people were around him and I was calling his name just to see if he was still alive in there I never heard his voice.
The police managed to get him off the guy. It took 3 of them. And the guy was on the floor by then crying and yelling that he was a poor man and my husband had killed him - for the benefit of the police I guess. And my dear beloved husband still wouldn't talk or answer any questions. The cops clearly thought he was a madman. I had my doubts too. But of course everyone ignored me. The police in this country don't speak to women. And my husband wouldn't even look at me. For a while I thought something happened to his voice because I'd caught a glimpse of someone trying to strangle him. I went over and stood next to him and he put one arm around me and squeezed. He didn't let go of me for the next half an hour. I was relieved. He was ok and seemed to have regained his sanity. Enough to hand over his driver's license and start to answer questions.
The police officers appeared to be on our side out of pure racism actually. We were Arabs and the driver was an Asian. The police officers were Arabs. Case closed. It's the only reason I can think of for why my husband was not immediately restrained and arrested for assaulting the guy infront of them, not to mention disturbing the peace etc....
The explanations were kind of long-winded. I have no idea how I managed to stay on my feet so long. And then the police officers got on their radio and seemed to get into some kind of technical debate with their headquarters about whether the case should be handed over to the traffic police as a car accident or handled by them as a street brawl etc.....That took forever. Eventually it was decided it was a traffic offence and everyone would have to go to the traffic police headquarters. Except me. My husband told the police he needed to get me upstairs. And they said fine. Two police officers came along with us to take him away afterwards. Never mind that I was what you might call the star witness. As we walked towards the building he seemed to notice me hobbling so he picked me up and carried me all the way upstairs. It made me feel better because I figured if he could handle my weight he can't be seriously injured. Except when we got upstairs I didn't want to go home anymore. I wanted to go with him. He wouldn't hear of it. He was already on the phone to my uncle telling him to come pick me up and take me to the hospital.
My uncle called me and told me not to worry about K, that if K just calls his embassy they will never arrest him for long. Which was terrifying because how long was for long?I really wanted to go with him but I couldn't. I simply couldn't walk at that point. The only way I could have done it is if someone were to carry me or at least let me lean on them and my husband didn't want me to go. I don't think the two police officers would have been anymore cooperative.
So he left and he spent last night in prison. I spent it at my uncle's house - not my uncle who is my age and dating my friend - my other uncle who is older than my father, whose wife bought me my wedding dress and who was once of the opinion that I shouldn't marry an Egyptian because Egyptians are crazy and bad-tempered and very loud and are always getting into fights in the streets - an impression he got from a brief visit to Cairo in the 90's. He and my aunt refused to let me go home when I was released from the hospital. The foot is fine - terribly swollen and blue again but no permanent damage am told. Am just back to using the crutch and I scraped my knee and got a few cuts and bruises on my legs but nothing too disasterous.
This morning he was released on bail - because his embassy intervened. But they have his passport. The cab driver hasn't been released. We still don't know what traffic offence he's going to be charged with. We're going to find out on Saturday. Of course I didn't go to work today. I went to see him at the police station with my uncle and a couple of his friends and found that thankfully they hadn't thrown him into a cell or anything. He'd spent the night sitting in an office. All I could think holding him was that he smelt exactly like a cab driver - which was unnerving. He was upset that I came. Arabs have a complex about their women frequenting police stations and I guess he wasn't immune.
So we were there until about 7:00 this evening. The embassy people were with us from early this morning until we actually walked out of the police station which is truly amazing to me. I can't picture my embassy ever doing anything like that for me. One guy from the embassy was very pissed off at the police for holding my husband's passport but he couldn't get them to release it. He promised he would try to get it sorted out on Saturday since tomorrow is a weekend here and government offices will be closed.
One of the things I found out about him during those hours at the police station was that this was not the first time he'd ever been arrested for fighting - that it happened to him twice before, once in Egypt and once in Sweden. I married a serial offender - a man with a record. He said the ***** cab driver could have killed me. I suppose he could have. Hadn't actually thought about it until he mentioned it. When I felt my leg dragging on the pavement I was terrified of losing it. And then I was distracted by events from my own good health and mortality.
So I got him back home, we ordered some take-out, had a bath together. I had to make sure we scrubbed that awful smell off him. Then I put him to bed and he went to sleep. I tried to sleep too but I couldn't. Too restless. So I got up and caught sight of his dirty clothes scattered all over the floor. Picking them up, I noticed that smell again. Was about to throw them in the washing machine when I had second thoughts. I took them into the kitchen, found a big black garbage bag, threw everything(pants, shirt, tie, boxers) in, tied the bag closed then I got my crutch and went outside to the garbage disposal room in the corridor and threw it in the incinerator. Felt much better. He's still sleeping. And am sitting here feeling shell-shocked and sleepless. Am worried about what will happen on Saturday, what he'll be charged with, if he'll have to go back to jail, if he's going to be tried/deported, what it all means for him and for us etc....I am also still a bit put off by the violence of what happened. I didn't like seeing him like that. I didn't think he was capable of it. I knew he had a temper but his anger was always of the cold and biting variety. I never thought he was the type to hit people. And then to have him tell me he's done it before and act like it's no big deal. I think he should be disturbed by it. I am.