Saturday, November 13, 2010

The importance of a pleasant sounding horn

We heard before coming that traffic was the thing to be most careful about here.  That was not an understatement.  Jeff and I are happy not to have a car here.  (Fortunately, the metro system is excellent to take us many of the places we want to go faster and cheaper than we could go in a vehicle.)   From what I've seen and heard, things like lanes painted on the road that drivers follow and drivers using their signal before switching lanes don't exist here.
People honk their horns usually before switching lands, or if someone else is switching lanes, or if someone is too close, or if they want to create a space to move into or many other reasons.  I had heard that Cairo was a very loud city and that is also true, mainly because of traffic I think.  Once when I was walking next to a busy street, I did a little experiment to see how many seconds would go by until I would hear the next car horn.  Once I got to five seconds, but usually it was not more than 3 seconds.
When one is walking on a street without a sidewalk, drivers will usually honk at you when they go by.   Maybe they just want you to know they're there, but they even do it when they are coming right toward you and you are walking facing them.  When I first got here and had just walked Cameron to school, I wondered if the car that passed me beeped at me twice because I was female, but then I noticed they beeped twice at the man walking behind me.  Then I heard them beep three times at the car they passed further down the road, and then three times at another car they passed.  Fortunately, they had a fairly pleasant sounding horn, for they blew it 10 times in the span of 4-5 blocks.
I ride on the University's buses at least once a week when I go back and forth to the University's new campus in New Cairo for my office hours.  I have office hours to help students with writing their theses.   The University has a whole fleet of dozens of buses that take students and faculty all over Cairo several times a day every day except Saturday.  Once I made the mistake of sitting in the front seat of the bus that happened to be driven by someone who liked to use the horn.  I counted at least 35 honks that bus trip.
A couple days ago I was at the University waiting for my bus when the person who supervises the dozens of bus drivers for the school had a ceremony where he gave out bonus checks to everyone who was driving safely (i.e., not switching lanes a lot or driving too fast) and those who returned their buses in clean condition. He would shake hands with each of the drivers and say, "Thank you for driving safely!"   Here is the photo of the safe driving ceremony at the University.
Below is a photo of one of the University's buses parked outside of the downtown campus of the University where I go for all my classes.

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