Friday, April 18, 2014

A brush with death, or imbecility, depending on your view

I had a gun pointed at me yesterday. My first instinct, five minutes after the event, was rush to social media and tell everyone I know, so horrified was I by the sheer idiocy of the event. But my Mum uses social media and the thought of giving her that kind of shock stopped me. I am not actually sure if it was a real gun and it's important to say so as not to over dramatise the event too much, that I am 99 per cent sure there was not really any violent intent, it was just two utter pillocks seeing if they could scare a bunch of women who they pulled up next to in traffic. I don't know if it was real because my experience with firearms amounts to 1. My dad's shotgun, which spent its life safely looked in a tall metal cabinet in the back porch of our family home, and 2. Seeing him indoors being shown how to fire a machine gun on some kind of Viet Cong tourist experience when we were on holiday in Vietnam.

What happened was this: I was in the passenger seat of a colleague's car on the way back from lunch, when a pair of local looking guys in a very ordinary looking white saloon pulled up next to us. I would not have noticed what was going on had another colleague, who was sitting in the back, not yelled: "He's got a gun!" And I looked over and sure enough the guy in the driver's seat had a very real looking hand gun. For reasons I'm not sure about, I was 90 per cent certain that this was not a dangerous situation, just two completely idiotic pillock-brained inbreds showing off because the colleague who was driving is a very attractive girl. I turned away, but my colleague who was sitting in the back tells me that he took off what looked like a safety catch, and, aimed it first at the back seat passengers, and then at me and Attractive Driving Colleague, and pretended to fire.

Attractive Driving Colleague, who is not local but was born and grew up in the UAE, seemed to think it was all a tremendous laugh, and play acted being shot, before they drove off. Shouting Colleague protested loudly, "it's not funny!" and I was inclined to agree. Shouting Colleague was particularly furious about it because she said it didn't matter whether it was a real or fake gun, or, whether there were actually bullets in it or not, they were deliberately trying to frighten us, or, thought the idea of shooting people dead is some kind of hilarious joke. My instinct is that we were in no danger, as for all I know it was a pellet gun used for keeping stray cats out of someone's garden, but, knowing what I do of local attitudes to firearms, I can't be 100 per cent certain. Stories like this one, about someone being shot during celebratory gunfire at a wedding, are not exactly every day here, but they appear way more frequently than they should. And, there is the fact that locals seem to have access to real guns with relative ease, because there is something of a hunting culture here, as this story  shows.

If it were the UK rather than on a sunny day in Jumeirah 1, I would have acted differently. I am fairly sure in the UK, I would have perhaps have made more effort to get down the car registration and report them to the police, because pointing even a fake firearm at someone in the UK can lead to criminal charges. But, I have no idea if attempting to frighten the absolute bejesus out of a bunch of women in a car with a firearm that may or may not have been fake and may or may not have had bullets in it is an offence here. It might have been just too much effort to explain it to the police. I suspect the response would have been: "Hlas, no real harm done, so why are you wasting our time, sister?" And, there was the fact that at least one person in the car seemed to think it was all totally hilarious, so getting the boys in khaki involved seemed something of an over reaction.

I wish I could say I wasn't afraid, but I was. My reaction to it all was to turn away, avoid eye contact, thinking, "if someone is stupid or mad enough to play with what could have been a loaded firearm in broad daylight in the front seat of a car to try and impress or scare the crap out of a car full of women, they are stupid or mad enough to accidentally or deliberate put a bullet straight between my eyes, so, while I am not going to do anything as dramatic as duck down, I am not going to be accidentally or deliberately shot in the face".

Being afraid feels stupid, because it was an incident that lasted seconds, and which Attractive Driving Colleague thought was "just so funny". Perhaps, as someone who was born here and grew up around such people, she has experienced such things before and thinks there is no cause to be afraid. I am anti-gun anyway, because of, oh, you know, incidents like this and, you know, this and, you know, the fact that guns are used on a daily basis to maim and murder innocent people, and, the fact that you can read daily in the newspapers at the moment about the damage done to Reeva Steenkamp by a firearm, apparently "accidentally". All factors considered, perhaps my reaction is not so stupid.

You only have to look at the way people drive here (tailgating, speeding, cutting across lanes with no notice at high speed, WITH their small children on their laps in the driver's seat, with eight or nine people stuffed into cars meant for a maximum of five), to realise that human life is a lot cheaper than it should be. I've never actually met anyone who is willing to say it out loud, but I am told the attitude to seat belts in cars among many is that, if God wills it, you will die in a crash, to wear a seat belt is to interfere with God's will. I suppose knowledge of that kind of attitude is what makes me afraid of some utter oxygen thief waving a firearm around in the front of his car. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before in the UAE, and I am hoping that it won't again. Even in a country where life is cheaper than it should be, there can't be that many molecule brains who think that waving a firearm around is "funny", can there?


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