I’m perhaps one of the 14 men on the planet who’ll readily admit that he’s rubbish at driving. Most unmanly of me, I know, but it’s true – I have the attention span of a young offender and the peripheral vision of a Cyclops. Besides, as far as I’m concerned, cars are dirty and dangerous things that we should try our best to do without. I’ve managed to do exactly that for most of my adult life. And then I came to Dubai.
I always knew that getting by without a car here would prove more difficult than in other cities; after all, Dubai is essentially one big road with a few tall buildings either side of it. Nevertheless, I resolved to give it a shot, and quickly became well versed in the ways of the metro. Every day I’d jump on the shuttle bus (my nearest stop had yet to open), then take the train. Yes, it usually took an age, but it was a good, honest way to travel.
At least, I thought so. In any other city, using public transportation is a perfectly acceptable way in which to get to work; here it’s social taboo. ‘You take the metro?’ people would splutter incredulously when I told them. ‘What’s it like?’ they’d ask, as if I’d just returned home from war.
It wasn’t long before I became hopelessly self-conscious. It even began to affect my romantic escapades, to the point that I’d feel threatened by women who drove – especially when they offered to pick me up before a date. I never thought of myself as a chauvinist, but there’s something emasculating about being chauffeured around in the passenger seat of a Yaris.
I tried to wean myself off the metro by joining a car pool. Not car pooling in its truest sense (after all, I didn’t have a car to pool), rather me taking a lift to work in the back of a Renault Clio while my two female colleagues chattered away in the front. My macho meter dipped to an all-time low and I started scouring the internet for online car dealerships.
But before I could crumble, fate played its hand. It was announced that the Time Out offices were relocating nearer to my home and I’d no longer have to commute. I was saved: I could walk to work and
thus maintain my tenuous anti-car snobbery. I’d no longer have to admit to using the metro! Problem solved!
Well, not really. The fact is I miss the metro. There, I said it. I miss it because it’s real and if there’s one thing a city as surreal as Dubai lacks, it’s reality. Besides, I still don’t have a car, so my dates still have to pick me up in a Yaris – and I still don’t enjoy that reality check.