Jean Wollam


Traffic in Beirut was about as bad as it could get. The Lebanese drivers were skilled, aggressive and totally lawless.


One morning a friend was making her way to the Embassy when she started down a one-way street. A taxi was coming down the same street, driving in the wrong direction. It undoubtedly never occurred to the driver that anyone would fail to give him the right of way, so he continued on until his car was almost bumper to bumper with Nora’s car. He had not reckoned on dealing with a stubborn American.


No other cars passed by.


The driver screamed in Arabic, blasted the horn and shook his fist. He was obviously becoming almost apoplectic.


Nora turned off her engine. She opened up her newspaper and calmly proceeded to read.


For some minutes the stalemate continued, the taxi driver shouting, Nora reading the news.


Finally the taxi driver reluctantly backed up the street. Nora turned on the ignition, drove up to the other driver, rolled down the window, said “shukran” (thank you) and drove on.


I can only imagine what the driver did next, but I would hazard a guess that he sat there, for a minute or two, his energy spent, then shrugged his shoulders, muttered “malish” (it doesn’t matter) and continued on down the one-way street in the wrong direction.


An ugly American or a driver fighting for her rights?