Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Taking care of citizens in Jordan

The traffic is a little disorderly in Jordan, but there's people trying to help you out.

First, suppose you want to walk to your destination. It is actually very dangerous to try to cross a street, but at the busiest intersections - especially at the crazy traffic circles where you have twenty cars flying in different directions at any given time - there are police officers chaperoning the business. They stand in place in the absence of traffic signals. Just a police officer and a whistle. They are very brave, actually, because when it comes time to stop a certain road, they blow the whistle and just step right out in front of the braking cars. And that's when the pedestrians can cross. Some Jordanians are daring, and cross even when they shouldn't - even as twenty cars come flying from twenty different directions. But others do wait, including me, so it's nice to have the traffic police there.

But it is a little disappointing, because sometimes the cop directing the traffic decides, just as soon as I walk up, to go on break, sauntering over to the parked police car for a gabfest and leaving the traffic to its own devices.

At the traffic circle nearest where I am, there's a lady cop! I've seen her every morning for a whole week now, wearing a white hijab. And I see a few others on roads.

Female police officer in a white hijab behind the pole.

I had the idea that many women here would be submissive, quiet, and have low confidence. But wow, that's not true. The women and girls here walk around with attitude.

I have seen a few places where as a pedestrian, you can press a button that is supposed to stop traffic as soon as the little green walking man on the signal appears. To be sure, I waited at such a place for fifteen minutes one day, in increasing despair as cars continued flying past; the light never once turned green for me. Along came a daring Jordanian, eventually, and I crossed the whizzing cars on hairpins as he did.

Another time, I stood on the opposite side of the same street, and pressed the pedestrian crossing button on that side, just to test it out; this time, the little green walking man popped up and traffic stopped. But that happened on a weekend. Maybe they only allow the little green walking man to put in his two cents on days when it won't disrupt traffic too much.

Suppose it's too long a distance to walk and you want to take a taxi. You can do that pretty easily. The taxis have meters in them, so you just follow that. Very rarely, a taxi driver will offer you a 'great' deal, one for which he will go so far as to turn off his meter. Don't pay any attention to that, it is a ploy to rip you off. Other taxi drivers are the complete opposite. Today's taxi driver was supposed to take one dinar and a quarter from me, but instead he only took a single dinar, and then he offered to drive me and my friend to a city called Irbid, for free, because he lives there and drives back and forth to spend the weekends with his family. It's probably the kind of free that comes with a "Donations Accepted" sign, but still it is nice. And another taxi was supposed to take one dinar and 20 "pennies", but when I did not have enough change, he took 10 pennies (called qersh) with no complaining.

Once, out of hundreds/thousands of taxis that have passed, I saw a female driver.

Apparently over the past winter, someone was kidnapped by the taxi driver. There was a big outcry. So the Prime Minister and government immediately made the decision to switch the clocks and make it so that during the winter, it would not yet be dark when people are coming home in taxis from work. I don't know the full story about that. It was just something I heard in passing.

There's also buses. You can opt for privately-run buses, though I've heard this is not entirely the best or safest idea. Then there's government-run buses. They actually have an electronic scoreboard attached to the windshield above where the driver sits with the names of the stations scrolling across, and changing to new station names as the bus moves along. It's only helpful if you're a fast Arabic reader, but still. These buses are very cheap!

If you're driving, most of the roads do not have the white or yellow lines that signify the lanes. So the cars kind of make up their own lanes. One exception is the road that stretches from the airport to the capital. It is neatly painted with lane lines. And someone told me that sometimes other roads are also painted with lanes, but the  lines fade very quickly. They probably just need to buy a better brand of paint.

So that is the story of the Jordanian businesses and government looking out for their people, at least when it comes to traffic!

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