You Only Really Use Street Lights And Headlights Half The Time Anyway

Late last night, CBS New York posted an article about how burned out street lights on highways are not being replaced:

In a dark manifestation of the new normal, lights on major highways are blinking out — and staying that way — and the American Automobile Association says New Yorkers may have to get used to it, reports CBS 2's Lou Young.

If you think Winter nights might be a little darker lately, it might not be your imagination. On the Cross County Parkway, it's difficult to count the number of unlit street lamps.

Many fear the darkened lights may be a sign of these austere times.

Certainly troubling, but are street lamps even necessary?

In Luxor we ate a nice meal at a restaurant called Sofra. Sofra was good, and it was nice to eat good Egyptian food in Egypt, especially when so many restaurant menus there seem to be tailored to international tourists' tastes (Veal Piccata, Fish & Chips — really?). We got a ride to the restaurant, but we needed to take a taxi back to our hotel, a 1.8 kilometer trip. Our Egyptian guide said we should expect to pay 20 Egyptian Pounds ($3.43) for the four of us.

After dinner, we rolled out onto Mohamed Farid Street where a taxi was waiting. Michael handled the negotiation. The driver wanted 30 pounds but Michael stood firm at 20 pounds. The driver began to leave, telling us that we would soon have to pay 50 pounds. Not twelve seconds later he returned, and agreed to our 20 pound price. I don't remember if he vigorously shook Michael's hand and grinned wildly but it seems like he would have. It was a very successful negotiation, and everyone was happy in the end.

What's surprising about Egypt isn't so much that you're expected to haggle over nearly everything — that's just a cliche about Egypt — but rather that so much time and effort goes into haggling over a price that was probably already determined well in advance.

The driver wanted to know if we needed the service of a driver while we were in Luxor. The travel agency coordinated all our transport, so we did not. "I can do it cheaper," he maintained. "All the sights." It was OK, we insisted, we would use the minivan that was already arranged for us. Eventually he gave up.

As we were twisting around the traffic circle at the end of Khaled Ibn Al Walid Street, I was reminded of something I was curious about. It was one of the first things we noticed shortly after landing in Cairo as we hurtled down the 20-plus kilometer 6th October Bridge elevated highway, the longest such elevated roadway in Africa (we were told), which also commemorates the Yom Kippur/Ramadan/October/1973 Arab-Israeli/Fourth Arab-Israeli War. Simply, many drivers in Egypt eschewed headlights.

Now I'm a Triple-A type of guy, and I always assumed that headlights were absolutely essential for safety, but maybe there was something I didn't understand.

Easy, the driver explained as he flipped his lights on and off — it is unnecessary to use headlights when the streets are already lit by street lights. Besides, he added, you don't want to drive with people who use headlights in this situation because it shows that they have bad eyesight.

Fair enough. For another perspective, the BBC h2g2 site notes that "Egyptians consider it rude to drive with the headlights on," which is a stranger explanation, for sure. (Later on we'll discuss the cultural significance of wet hair, but all in good time.)

When we got out at our hotel, the driver insisted we take his card, just in case we needed a driver. Here is his card:

Mr. Fish Transportation Business Card

We were not in Luxor more than 36 hours — and much of that was spent on the West Bank looking at old stuff — but we ran into Mr. Fish at least twice, maybe three times. The first time he made us feel bad for wanting to walk (in retrospect, a poor decision on our part). The other times were just funny — everyone laughed — "Mr. Fish, he's the best!" one of his friends enthused.

So it was very gratifying to me this morning to see that Mr. Fish is an entire forum on Trip Advisor, and that apparently Mr. Fish is not just just one fish but rather a whole school of fish, or rather a family of brothers, or perhaps just a bunch of drivers working for the same company. And the Trip Advisor posters add that there is also a Mr. Chips. Fish and Chips — no wonder the menus are what they are.

See also the Big Map: Egypt/Jordan, December 27, 2010-January 11, 2011.

Posted: January 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: National Geographical | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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