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Mehrans to the Left of me, Hiaces to the Right June 14, 2006

Posted by KG in FS Life, Islamabad.
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There are some times when you're glad you've had that training about staying cool when situations are tough. And no, I'm not talking about public speaking gigs. Because there are other situations that are much, much worse. Such as, well, tonight. Where after being a good Samaritan and taking a stranded colleague from Kabul back to her way out of the way hotel, my car broke down in the middle lane of Jinnah Ave, a mile from home.

Of the wide roads in Islamabad previously alluded to, Jinnah is one of the worst. There are six obvious lanes that separate the only large commercial strip here, and that number at any given moment expands to about six on each side, populated by motorcycles, taxis, pedestrians, bikes, one legged flower salesmen, street sweepers, and various other regularly seen folk. Still, not a street to be avoided, and certainly not to be avoided at 2115. That is, unless your car breaks down at a stop light, with you trapped in a suit and tie. In other words, clearly not a Pakistani. The hidden red plates, American accent, and western hairstyle don't really help either.

Luckily, that "don't worry, this can be solved, be patient" instinct, practically beaten into me, kicked in. A quick call to the Embassy and a car was out to see what the problem was. He said my car overheated (no duh, that hood was steaming hot, I thought that was normal!), determined that I had an overtaxed battery, and got his massive armored SUV in a position to give me a jumpstart. It was a rather amazing move:

goofy traffic

(note: nothing at all drawn to scale)

After the jump, he told me in mechanic's Urdu that the problem was probably with my radiator's water level and I should go to the Embassy mechanic tomorrow (for the Urdu inclined: "Apka radiator meh pani nehi hai. Kal, motorpool meh ayingay or hum apki gari ka masla fix kerengay.") And here I thought the smell of charred rubber when I got out of the car was the great Islamabad tire fire. In fact, it was my car's engine, slowly cooking itself. If I had known, I would have purchased some eggplants to roast on the hood. One more opportunity lost, I suppose.

On getting home safely, I saw that two of my guards were standing watch. It was their changing of the guards, though not nearly as ceremonial as the limey version (just a handing off of the one rifle, really.) I told them of my car tribulations and they clucked in sympathy, saying "I thought the car always smelled that way," (thanks guys) and offering a ride to my office on their shared bike tomorrow.

I had a post planned for the near future that I hoped was interesting and well written. Unfortunately, the hilarity of having my new used car break down in the middle of Islamabad Pakistan was far, far more blogworthy. In any case, I think the moral of the story is clear: never be a good Samaritan. Ever.

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