The sun was shining and my favourite tune was playing on the radio, Hit Radio – cent pourcent eeeetttss – you need a French accent really, as I drove back into the oasis. Immediately the temperature went down by ten degrees and a cool breeze rolled in through my open windows. The road is compressed clay and very rough so I crept through the ruts in the Toyota Yaris, easing her gently over the worst of them. Right at the first rubbish bin, straight on past the corner, don’t follow the arrow and it is next right.
I was rehearsing my directions home and singing along to Eeeeetttt Radio tunelessly but with gusto, when up ahead a couple of goats trotted out from the shade, a black one, a white one, a spotted one,, then a dozen of them. This was a photo opportunity and a half.
I slowed the car right down and whipped out my iphone. I knew that a shepherd or shepherdess would be around somewhere, and I wanted to get it all on video. Bingo! Some lovely footage of the goats and their guardian running behind them.
Thud! Bang! Grind! Clatter! Clang! Clash! My car stopped and lurched to the right, I could hear the bottom of the engine grinding against the earth. WTF? What had just happened? What had I done? I opened the door, looked down and all became hideously clear, I had driven into an irrigation channel and was now stuck.
“You are a total idiot! Why didn’t you look where you are going? What are you going to do now? You are paddleless up the creek of ordure,” I yelled silently at myself. Seriously, though, there was no-one around and I had no idea how to go about getting the car out. I tried lifting it and realised that there are not enough hours in the gym to develop those kind of muscles.
At that point, a very thin, small man arrived, Mohammed. He looked at me in disbelief and shook his head. I shook mine back and asked if he could help. He leapt into the ditch and started trying to find stones to prop up the car. We needed more man power, I thought. Fortuitously I had met a man called Hassan that morning, who had urged me to telephone him if ever I needed anything.
“Hi Hassan. This is Alice, do you remember me? We met this morning? Yes, thank you I am well and my family too. And you? And your family? Great. Hassan, I need your help. I have driven my car into an irrigation channel.” I had just learnt the word for irrigation channel form Mohammed – sagiyya. After a moment of silent disbelief, Hassan asked me where exactly I was. You should know that every road in an oasis looks the same: mud building, field of wheat, field of carrots, date palms. I had no idea. Fortunately, Mohammed was able to direct him to the correct palm tree.
Within 5 minutes, a white van sped up and disgorged Hassan and three helpers. We all shook hands and they looked at me. I looked back. Then, the one wearing his baseball cap back to front, Lahcen, couldn’t hold it in any longer. He sniggered and uttered the immortal phrase, “Women drivers!”
I had no comeback and watched mutely as the men searched for big rocks to fill up the channel. Within ten minutes, the sagiyya was full under the front wheel and it was time to try and get Toyota Yaris out of her embarrassing hole and back on the road. I was relegated to the sidelines and my keys were removed from my nerveless fingers. Visions of enormous repair bills flashed before my eyes, I sawToyota Yaris with R.I.P emblazoned across her bonnet in red, embellished with a skull and crossbones.
Hassan turned the key. We held our collective breath.
Hooray, Hurrah. God was watching over Toyota Yaris. Out she popped with no adverse effects apparently. She had no reason to be covered in shame, unlike me. We all shook hands again, and my knights in shining armour, well, blue robes, took the opportunity to mildly mock me and urge me to concentrate on my driving, not herds of goats, which I felt was fair. The moral of the story? “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes, fools by their own.” (HG Bohn)
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