Thursday, March 10, 2011

My long, tiring quest for the powerful driving license

I wake up with a jolt, lump in my throat, heart beating like I've just run a marathon, and a lingering indistinguishable thought at the back of my head nudging me, trying to get my attention. In one second, it all comes to me. It's your third test today. This time if you fail again you're a real moron.

As I reach for the easiest abaya I can slip over me in my closet, my eyes fall on something blue-covered lying rejected, gathering dust, on the corner of my bookshelf. "The Secret" I whisper to myself. There was a time when I lived the words in here. When I was the known advocate for this, quickly judging anybody with misfortune in their lives as one who hasn't taken control over it themselves. Things are not that simple anymore: the laws of this book failed me once-terribly. God wanted to remind me what I had dared to ignore- that He was behind everything, and the ultimate decision-maker in my life.

I don't normally talk to myself but I do this morning. Just stop thinking and philosophizing too much. Go and get your damn license. Act like it's already yours.
The drive to the place I spend whispering every prayer I knew by heart.

The driving institute I go to specialize in inconveniencing their customers. Or maybe that's how all of them are. I wait for an hour and a half, in the same position on my chair. My skin has too little layers to protect my bones from its hard surface. There is little to do during these ninety minutes except stare around at the all too familiar place- the same faces of the employees: each has the complete Emarati look with her heavily-makeup-ed face, bored expression, highlighted fringe popping out of her elegant silk sheila, designer abaya, and most importantly: the gamboo3a over her head. The same signs everywhere with instructions: "Speed kills", "Wear your seat belt at all times".... One of the girls calls a worker from the kitchen and orders her to make a cheese sandwich and heat it for "Mama Examiner". Deja Vue. At least it means she won't be hungry while testing me. The sameness of this place and the recurrence of this all makes me feel suffocated. I tug my sheila at my chin to allow myself a little extra air. Oddly enough, I am not nervous. Maybe it was a good idea to keep us waiting: wait for their anxiety to turn into boredom and then desperation before we let them hit the road. Because that's the stage I reach: I am desperate to get this over with. When the examiner comes to read names off her list, I jump to my feet, and then sit back down disappointed as I realise mine's wasn't one of them.

The exam itself is uneventful. With two other examinees staring back at me nervously from the center mirror, I carry out the examiner's instructions like a robot:
Turn left
Turn right
Change lane
Junction right
Junction left
And there, it's over. I go back to the back-seat and smile big at the next girl in line, because I know I had not given her any reason to fail me. And that's the approach here: how can I fail her? How may I keep her in our institute and make more money out of her?

Funny how the driving institute changes from a prison to the most jolly environment when I get back. I giggle to myself as she stamps the PASS on my learning permit, and I can't help detecting a hint of anger in her "Mabrook". Or am I just one big cynical?

Suddenly, I notice all the colours in here. The walls are painted grass-green. There's so much positive energy around this place.... What looked like a strange web I now recognize as a kids' play area. They climb and twist on the ropes happily. Their laughter fills the air.

Could all this change have occurred while I was gone? No.
The driving center, the world, people you know, friends and family.... everything seems as it is because of your perception. With positive thoughts the world becomes a garden. And with negative thoughts the garden turn into a scary cave.

أحبب فيغدو الكوخ قصرا نيرا.... وابغض فيمسي الكون سجنا مظلما

from كن بلسما by the Lebanese poet إيليا أبو ماضي

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