A different attitude

12 02 2014

The traffic lights on the intersection of my road and Harare drive have not been working for some months now. Actually that’s not quite true. The traffic lights that face the Harare Drive traffic have been working, the ones on my road have not. It even got to the stage where one of the green lights fell off and was dangling by wires to the rest of the unit.

Crossing Harare Drive was an interesting experience requiring one to move forward just far enough to see the Harare Drive lights without obstructing the traffic and when it turned red it meant that the lights on my road were green; if they’d actually been there. If on approaching Harare Drive I couldn’t actually see any lights but could see traffic stopped on Harare Drive then I’d assume it was OK for me to cross. But I always slowed down, just in case.

This morning ALL the lights were working! Oh joy! At last I felt safe. Well, a little more safe than normal. A City of Harare pickup was parked next to one of the lights. I thought about waving and hooting my thanks as I drove past but I could not see a technician nearby. Hold on, I was about to thank someone for doing a job that should have been done months back? I bet in civilized countries he would have been apologizing to me.

At the intersection of College Road and Churchill Road all the lights were working. I still counted four vehicles going through on red when it was green for me.

I call it home

2 11 2012

I know when I am back in Harare from a visit to Johannesburg when:

I get  to immigration control at the airport and signs are in English and  Chinese.

The person  assisting me offers to push my wheelchair to the long-stay car park.

There are only 2 car parks – the long-stay and short-stay and I can look across the short-stay to the long-stay. They are all on the same level unlike Jo’burg which has multiple levels of parked  cars.

There are no lit signs telling me how many parking bays are vacant. I can see how many parking bays are vacant!

The attendant at the long-stay park asks how my trip was and really means it.

Not only are traffic lights working on my drive back across town – they are ALL working!

I also notice where there are working street lights.

It is impossible to miss all the potholes in the roads.

I go into DHL to pay for a parcel today and find out that it will take 3 to 5 working days to deliver from the airport to my office which is a 35 minute drive.

This is Zimbabwe and I call it home!

The lore of the lights (or a quick guide to surviving Zimbabwe’s traffic lights)

17 07 2009

Surviving Harare’s traffic lights (and by extension this applies to the rest of the country) is not to be taken lightly. Here are a few scenarios and how to deal with them.

1. The traffic pattern implies that all the lights are working. Assume nothing; traffic lights are merely suggestions and red lights are a challenge. Proceed with caution, preferably not as the first vehicle into the intersection. Let someone else be the bait.

2. The lights that you can see are working but you cannot see any others working, they probably are not. Proceed with caution, preferably not as the first vehicle into the intersection. Let someone else be the bait.

3. You cannot see ANY lights working but that does not mean that ALL lights are not working. Proceed with caution, preferably not as the first vehicle into the intersection. Let someone else be the bait.

4. You have come through at least 3 sets of lights that are not working (there was no power at home either) and it looks like this lot is out too. This IS actually the safest scenario as no-one believes they have right of way but don’t take anything for granted. Good luck and may the bravest survive. (This does not apply in South Africa where an intersection with non-functioning traffic lights must be treated like a 4-way stop street).

5. All the lights are actually flashing orange indicating a malfunction. Wow, you ARE privileged! Not many people actually see this fail-safe working so take a photo to prove it to your friends (time it for the flash!)

There are of course other combinations of the above but these are the basics. The best survival technique is to skulk in the shadow of something big enough that no-one else will “dis” it. 7 tonners are good, 30 tonners are the best.