This is a story of shame. It starts innocently: I surrender to the traffic in Morocco, marvelling at its ‘rules’. I enjoy weaving through traffic, pushing my way in, driving four-wide on a two-lane road, honking impatiently and driving incredibly silly, even outright dangerously.
The first irritations surface quickly. I start talking to fellow road users, who can’t hear me, of course. My talking becomes grumbling, then scolding, until I end up being totally wound up and angry. That’s my cue to take the ferry from Tangier to Spain for a few days. When I return, I’m recharged and able to surrender myself to the Moroccan roads again with sufficient patience. Thus, I go back and forth between being a Zen Buddhist and Road Rage Maniac.
But over time, I start to feel completely ‘zen’ in Moroccan traffic. I zigzag through Rabat with unprecedented ease. I feel like I have completely adapted to the Moroccan driving customs. My integration seems successful. One Wednesday, our friends follow us in their car. Thoughtlessly and relentlessly, I navigate through the busy evening traffic, swerving left and right, honking my horn, and pushing my way in if I have to. Upon arrival, our friends ask: “What were you doing? We could hardly keep up! Do you always drive like that?!” I take their words as a great compliment. I don’t notice the undertone, their worries. It’s as if I have just received a diploma.
Two days later, my youngest son and I are trying to turn onto the main road when some fool dares to make it awkward. It’s irritating and only gets worse when the man starts driving alongside us, pulling a face as if to say: What’s your problem? I immediately start yelling at him through my open window: How dare he cut us off! That was dangerous! Where on earth did he get his driver’s licence! Then my son tells me very calmly: “Dad, there’s no need to be this angry.”
It startles me. I mumble something about being right, fully knowing that I’m wrong. I realise that my ‘adaptation process’ has in fact been a daily fight in a proverbial guerrilla road war. I’ve been fighting like Don Quixote against the windmills. My youngest son has just given me a wake up call. Can I be saved? In an ultimate attempt to call a truce and reconcile with my fellow road users in Morocco, I must start by saying “Sorry…”
This column was recently published on Global Connection (online magazine for expats worldwide). It is a short version of an earlier published column in dutch called ‘Verkeersguerilla‘. Click here for the original version in Dutch.