“Benet badda tjib moto?!” Or just another day being a woman

Sawtalniswa

You want to know why we need to change our system in Lebanon? You doubt how corrupt our government is? Try registering for your driver’s license.

If you want to do it in Beirut, you need to go to this old building way outside of town. You will have trouble getting there because of the traffic. You will risk running two or three people over on your way there, because parking on the sidewalks is normal, which makes it really hard for people to walk anywhere other than on the roads. After you have used up most of your energy and your good mood just getting there, you will have to try to park.

Apparently, you then discover, you are not the only one excited to have arrived – all the guys lurking around the building are very excited you are there, too. They are even smiling at you, and staring, and leering. You then attempt to enter this alleged governmental building, which requires skills out of Survivor because of all the steps missing on your way up. Dead cockroaches and other insects welcome you at the door. You enter.

You find a lot of people, all shouting and laughing. Most of them are smoking, in their fully closed cubicle with not one window opened. Then, you attempt to enter the room where you are supposed to take the written exam. First, though, you need the help of an “agency,” (read: one of the lurking men), or you’ll never manage to get inside. Some agencies can get you in faster than others, depending on their “connections” – and the money you pay.

You sit on this extremely dusty broken chair and stare at the screen in front of you. You are stressed because you want to do well. After all, you studied hard, with the help of the booklet that the agency gave you, entitled: “A driver’s guide – specialized for women.” Do men have their own booklet? you wonder. Or, perhaps they just don’t need one? Confusingly, there is nothing inside the booklet actually directed to women in specific, besides the title. Finally, you take and finish your exam, which also has no gender-specific questions. But you finish after the guy next to you, sadly, because he had some help from the “supervisor.”

It is now time for the practical exam. You pay a random guy LL10,000 so you can practice before the real exam. He proudly brings you an over-used jog (moto/scooter). It has no front face and to turn it on you need to have really strong legs, because the automatic switch clearly doesn’t work. You do your little going back and forth in the parking lot (read: the official test location) and you are ready. However, the committee is not.

You will have to wait for one hour and twenty minutes under the burning sun before they bless you with their presence. After all this time waiting, you would expect a very respectful committee to show up. Here they are: two old men with cigarettes walking proudly towards the table where they will sit and “judge” your performance.  If you are woman, you will have the priority to go first, of course. However, I’m not sure if it’s of respect, or it is something else, since you are the only woman there, and they are all very eager to see you riding a “motorcycle.” Oooooh. Very exciting.

Predictably, the motorcycle you are tested on, by which you are supposed to show the committee that you will later drive safely and securely, has no lights, no mirrors and you are not asked to wear a helmet. That, you realize, would be stupid anyway since the exam is over in less than two minutes. You finish and go to the “jury” to sign your name.

One of them then tells you, “The practical exam for four-wheel vehicles is tomorrow, ya 7elwe.” He’d apparently deduced that, since you are woman, you couldn’t have been applying for a driver’s license for a motorcycle.

You explain to him that you have just passed the test. He laughs and looks at his colleague: “Sme3et ya Rabbi3, benet badda tjib moto?!”

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