Saturday, July 7, 2012

Another of those Dorothy moments...

I don't often get upset about news stories, even the miserable, depressing tales of human tragedy. Spending a year or so working at a regional news agency plumbing the depths of human misery for an honest(ish) wage will cure most people of that, including me.

This one really bothered me though, as it made me have another one of those "Dorothy" moments, again, that  I had in this very old post, when you realise how very far from home you are even though in reality it's a six or seven hour flight back to London. Sometimes, the Dorothy analogy extends a little further when you look around, and you realise it's not that different after all, in the same way that the audience realises that the Tinman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion are three of Dorothy's uncle's farm hands in costume and she knew them all along.

It started with this story, about a two-year-old who died after being left alone in a locked parked car. I thought to myself, such a thing could never happen in the UK. Remember the fuss was made when  police officer left his dogs in a locked vehicle for too long?

But then, there was this story, about a child in the UK who died after her parents, for reasons best known to themselves, did not realise that leaving her in a zipped tent with a smoking barbecue could be potentially fatal, and, I thought, perhaps I am naive in thinking we in the UK are more clued up which made me rethink that a little.

Then, today, another story appeared in the press about another child who had died as a result of being left locked in the car in the heat of the day. That's twice, in the space of a week, that a child has died in this way and it has left me wondering why more was not done after the first incident to publicise the fact, that would seem obvious to many, that leaving your child locked in a car in the height of summer, even for a short, if you can call two hours short, period of time, is potentially fatal.

I don't know how extensive the Arabic-language press is here for the simple reason that I don't speak or read the language well enough to gauge how widely the story was covered, but I keep coming back to the fact that actual human beings need to have it explained to them that your child can die if you leave them in a car with no air con when the thermometer is nudging 50 degrees, and the fact that the story has been covered in a fairly low key manner makes me wonder if this more common than is being reported.

It's worth explaining this in more detail from a motorist's point of view because the way in which those children must have suffered is playing on my mind. I rarely drive the car here without having the air con on at least on low, except in the winter months when the temperature falls to the low 20s during the day and the mid to late teens at night.  When I pick him indoors from work in the evening, it sometimes involves a five or 10 minute wait which involves sitting there without air con on because I refuse to become a Jumeirah Jane cliche sitting with my engine running burning fossil fuels and contributing to the steady death of our planet while the air around the car becomes increasingly fume-filled, hot and unpleasant for everyone walking by.

As soon as you switch the engine off, the air in the car starts to feel nasty, stuffy and warm. No point opening the window because it will get worse because you let the hot air in quicker, particularly when the humidity is high. Within two or three minutes, and bear in mind this is in the evening when it's cooled down a lot, you start to sweat and after about five minutes, you start to feel fed up and irritably drum your fingers because you're over-heating and where is that husband, anyway? After 10 minutes, you consider putting the engine on just for a few seconds so you can take the edge off with the air con.

This is the experience of an adult, who has the luxury of being able to sweat to cool herself down, unlike a child, and who probably has a bottle of water with her and perhaps most importantly knows that him indoors will be along in a few minutes so we can start the engine, whack the air con on and go home. Imagine, sitting there trapped with no ability to turn the engine on, wind the window down, reach for a drink, for hours.

Having written this, I suspect I will have nightmares about being trapped in a car in the desert heat praying for either suffocation or heat exhaustion to kick in and at least render me unconscious in so it's over before the dreaded panic sets in.

Why did no one think about this when they walked off, apparently, if the articles are to be believed, forgetting that these children are in the car?  I can't begin to fathom why that was the case, and why there is no mention of a criminal investigation in either incident.

This is in the week when, a particular bugbear of mine, #UAEdresscode, is still trending on the dreaded Twitter on a weekend when it's reached the international press including the Washington Post and the BBC.

I find myself more than a little uncomfortable about this fact and wonder if it's down to some kind of international PR push by the campaigners or whether it's due to the fact that it's silly season and no one has much else to write about now that they've got over the Barclay's scandal a bit.

I don't know whether I am heartened or disheartened by the fact that now it appears to not just be ex-pats and tourists who are being targeted by campaigners, although, it does appear to have been squarely aimed at women covering up with little mention of enforcing a similar law for men.

I know Twitter is an unfair representation of society full, as it is, of people of dubious morals and agenda spouting all kinds of vicious claptrap that they wouldn't dream of saying out loud in front of their hundreds of followers, but I still find myself worried by the views that are expressed.

This Tweeter condemns her fellow countrywomen for failing to cover up to her exacting standards:

Some Abayas can be widely open exposing skimpy clothing under them, some can be too tight, others can expose cleavage....etc.

This is what concerns the Twitterati, whether local women might be cheekily flashing a bit of flesh in an attempt to express their sexuality, a desire for more freedom, or whatever, I can't claim to know what motivates them, but still.... This is what matters, while two children in the space of a week have been left to die in boiling hot cars?

That is something that makes me feel very, very far from home.


  1. It's an all-too-common thing here in the U.S. --

  2. Shows how little I know, I suppose. It surprised me a lot because in the UK, you get used to campaigns from the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust and the like on how "Dogs can die in hot cars" whereas I don't remember one regarding leaving kids in the car, maybe because the hottest temp on record in the UK is around 37degrees, and that's extremely unusual, and, I assumed that people don't need to be told not to leave their child in alone in a car for a prolonged period of time at all, let alone when the temp is above 45degrees. It appears I was wrong.