The prideful Arab - a story of self-destruction

Today's the day I get my drivers license. In Saudi Arabia.
Our predicament lies in the latter sentence.

I arrive in the waiting room 10 minutes late for the practical driving test. As expected, the room was packed. The instructor in the room points a finger at me and blares: "Aotomatic wala manual?" "Automatic" I reply. He hands me my folder and physically ushers me to a line of approximately 40 men, all sitting on hardened stools. A lot of people drive automatic, I think to myself, and I was 10 minutes late so I probably deserve this.
The line on my right was much shorter.
I presumed it was the line of people who were going to do their tests on a manual car. Lucky them. It was the pinnacle of summer heat outside this shack-looking excuse of a waiting room. Dreading the hours to come, I whipped out my headphones; placed my bottom on the flat surface of concrete; and hit the play button on my phone.

With the undertone of Quranic verses in my ear and the rhythmic dribble of sweat from my forehead, I started seeing things. Not mirages. Things that were already there, but only now making sense. Like an uncharacteristic puzzle that you ignore at first but then can't resist the urge to solve.
Our line wasn't progressing at all, despite batches of people being moved forward, out of the waiting room and into the driving grounds. Then I noticed that the line on my right only consisted of Saudi's who were also giving tests on automatic vehicles. The difference, you ask? They get to go first. Is it a rule? Or an agreement?
No. And that's what makes it worse.
There lies a tacit consensus  amongst the people that the Saudi man goes first. And it irritated me, knowing that a Saudi who would arrive 30 minutes late will still get to go before the first man in my line. But would that man say anything? No. Because the mood had been set in that waiting room, and to cause a disturbance to that mood would lead to the disorder of layers of unspoken rules. The resilience of the ecosystem would be tested and, oh how I assure you, it would crush that man. Burry him into blankets of mud, grass, sand, roots, and leaves. Silence him. And so, my dear readers, that is why the man remained silent instead of being silenced.

As a foreign inhabitant of this country, I can testify to the notion that this attitude not only exists in that waiting room, but in the entire country - on so many different levels.  But you see, this story doesn't have a great ending. And protagonists rarely focus on endings.

Expats make up almost 1/3 of this country's population and contribute to around 70% of the work force. Those statistics, by themselves, might allure you towards a daunting predicament. They need us much more than we need them, but they still seem to have created an arbitrary social leverage because of the color of their passport. It is such a fragile cycle, a volatile grip. If broken, then every aspect of this country's sociopolitcal development will be challenged. The government has already realised this and put policies such as Saudization in place. An attempt to tighten the grip, lesser the circumference.

My thought process comes to a halt as the following verse plays in my earphones:


***

As I sat in the waiting room that day watching the men in thobe's butcher their driving but still coming back with passed slips, a smile played its way to my lips.
The only clock in the room ticked.


And I waited.


The prideful Arab - a story of self-destruction The prideful Arab - a story of self-destruction Reviewed by Big Bause on 13:32:00 Rating: 5

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