The adventures of Hakam, my colleague and driver, continue.
I am not a nervous passenger when someone else is driving. Even with Hakam; even though the dangers are real and ever-present.
We met this morning at 8:00am as usual. I was sitting in the chair in the lobby but he did not see me even though I could have reached out and pinched his ass if I wanted. We got to the car and off we go. The hotel has a parking lift gate. Hakam seems to have forgotten about the gate and while he was fiddling with the controls to try to get the defrost to work, he nearly ran right through the gate—slamming the brakes at the last minute and just as the bar brushed up against the windshield of our little Kia. Then, as in the last two mornings, he realized he is too far away from the control box to insert the parking ticket to lift the gate. He reversed and pulled back up closer to the box, rolled down his window and at that moment realized he forgot to get the parking ticket validated. He informed me of this fact and we slowly backed down the narrow drive to get back to parking and reception as there was not room enough to turn around. There are a few curves and he used every inch of the pavement, snaking back and forth across the drive until we finally get back to the main parking area. Without looking, he put the car in drive to get up to the front of the building and nearly ran right over a lady walking across the lot—as in, I think perhaps the right front fender brushed her thighs and he never saw her.
I am a guy who really does not like back-seat drivers instructing me while I am driving. So that trait translates to my being a passive passenger. I am just self-aware in that since I don’t like someone telling me how to drive I endeavor to return that courtesy. I saw the lady, quickly ascertained that while it would be a close call, her life was not endangered and so I said nothing. I may have been too passive as it was closer than was comfortable for at least the two of us that were aware of the situation.
Hakam got the parking ticket validated. This time he almost got close enough to the control box on the first try, but not quite. But instead of backing up and adjusting, this time he thrust his upper torso out the window so he could reach out to put in the ticket; voila, up goes the gate. There is a slight curve to the right just as you near the main road. Hakam, still trying to get the defrost to work, missed the turn and put the little Kia right up over the curb and onto the lawn—he quickly adjusted and we drove only slightly across the grass and got back on pavement with just a few bumps; then, apparently forgetting that traffic on our side of the road comes from the right here, he slammed the brakes just in time to avoid pulling out in front of a passing Audi.
The rest of the journey was without significant mishap—just his normal indifference to all the key elements of safe driving. I will say this for him—he does not speed. He is well below speed limits which is good for us but does cause some consternation for those passing us and giving stern looks. I meet their angry gaze with my scared and helpless look. When we got to the office this morning, he slowed and almost repeated the same mistake of yesterday by pulling in to the receiving docks; but instead he realized his mistake and drove on to the employee parking lot–repeating his mistake of yesterday by forgetting about the speed bump and going over it at around 4x recommended speed. No apparent damage done to the car, just some spilled coffee and cumulative road stress to me.
This time Hakam chose a spot that was not between two cars, but is clearly marked for the other company that shares this building. I said nothing, just glad to be alive.
Super nice guy and a good consultant. Crap driver. I’m considering taking a life insurance policy out on him; if he does much driving at home then it seems unlikely he will survive past 40.
Barron took me to Durty Nellie’s for dinner; a local and locally famous pub and restaurant. Just when we sat down, Anil called and wanted us to get together a conference call at 9pm (it was around 7:40 when we spoke). By the time we got through dinner and out of there and got on the road, it was clear I would not make it back to the hotel by 9. My phone quit working all of a sudden on email so I could not access the call in information or get email. So we drove fast and I got back to the hotel around 9:05 to find that the call was postponed until next day. So fuck. We could have had a nightcap. Good dinner though.
Mid-day. Crazy town continues and I had to get away for a few minutes. So I grabbed my bag of cashews and came upstairs to where there are some empty offices so I could get a few minutes to myself. Seriously crazy intensity here right now. I cannot even break away to get to the bathroom between the calls with US, meetings here, and people just coming in for updates, advice, to complain, or just get something off their chest. Tough week. The group mood swings go from ‘fuck it, what’s the point’ to ‘damn, this shit is coming together’. Sometimes within the space of a few minutes.
Poor Hakam had another bad morning driving. When we left the parking lot, as he has done every morning this week, he rolled up to the parking meter too far away. Every day. It’s as mesmerizing as it is painful to watch. This morning, instead of backing up and getting closer, he decided to repeat the ‘lean out the window approach’. Except this morning he did not put the car in park and when he lurched his body up to lean out the window, his foot slipped off the break and we rolled into the gate life before he could get us stopped. The bar hit the windshield and under force of pressure started riding up the glass. Just before it disappeared over the top of the car, Hakam fell backwards into his seat and re-applied brake pressure. Unfazed, he backed up and managed to get his parking ticket into the meter and off we went.
The last few days, at the office, he has stopped short of the employee parking area and nearly pulled in to the deliveries area. Today, inexplicably but paradoxically also not surprisingly, he stopped even shorter of the mark and nearly pulled in to the parking lot of a completely different company. It’s almost like he can’t see or something, but he works all day on his computer and other than 8 or 10 mishaps every few miles he drives. Crazy shit.
Evening now, and breaking news. Prophetic at least. Or something. On the way back to the hotel, in a light drizzle, as he has done every day this week, Hakam nearly drove right past the entrance to the hotel. As I have done every this week, as I noticed he was planning apparently to drive us all the way to Wales, I pointed to the entrance to the hotel drive and said “this is us”. And just as he did every day this week, Hakam slammed on the brakes and we stopped at a point where he could still make the turn; just. We seemed safe for a second; there was an oncoming car, and had he acted immediately we could have turned in and all would have been well. But we were stopped. An okay move. Probably the best move. But then, inexplicably, Hakam turned directly into the path of the oncoming car. Well, that was a disaster. I heard the lady lay on her horn as I turned my back to the door and leaned in towards the center of the car and said “this is going to be violent”. It was. Not terrible. The lady that hit us was probably only going around 35 or so when she plowed into the door on my side. As these things go, it did not really hurt. A bit of a sting in the ribs. Our little Kia was spun around 90 degrees and moved about 20 feet down the road in the direction we had came.
Hakam, to his credit, recovered quickly and asked if I was okay. I was. We then both started to get out to check on the other car. But my door was stuck shut from the impact. I finally was able to shove the door open with my feet and got out into the rain. The youngish woman driving the other car was just getting out. She was also okay and in surprisingly good humor—it clearly was not her fault but she was nice and just quickly called her dad and the police.
The ‘Garda’ pitched up and cheerfully went about collecting all the information. Both drivers were required to give breathalyzer tests. I doubt Hakam has ever had a drink and the girl was coming directly from work so no issues there. The girls father turned up in a taxi (he was the driver) and I thought he was going to cry. He just kept saying ‘as long as no one was hurt, I don’t care about the car.’ Nice guy and he had an apparent ill-will for an obvious bad mistake by Hakam which put his little girl in danger. So all’s well that end’s well.