Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 1 comment

Journey to Jordan #5: Drive-Thru Amman

Squat sandstone apartments piled one on top of the other.  Hills guaranteed to produce quads of steel.  Tiny shops with metal grates for doors selling ground coffee and fruit and eggs.  Men in long grey djellabas and women in tightly wrapped veils.  Giggling white-scarved schoolgirls little boys tangled up in kite strings.  The neighbourhood we called “home” in Amman was more or less what I expected of the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom.  

But a trip to the local Starbucks showed me that the slice of society I’d been exposed to thus far was only half the picture.  

I had every intention of a productive morning of work and had merely wanted a change of scenery from the apartment.  But sitting beside a window overlooking the 24-hour drive thru, I found the clientele far more fascinating than the Turkish history lesson I was supposed to be focused on.   

The fact that one can pull up to a window and get a caffeine fix at all hours of the night is amazing enough in itself.  But the kind of people who make a trip through the “latte lane” were ones I probably wouldn’t have otherwise seen, since they seem to move through the city hidden safely behind the tinted windows of SUVs and BMWs and aren’t out breaking a sweat on the seven hills.

Good little ethnographic researcher that I am, I pulled out my notebook and began to document what our host refers to as “The Californians of Amman.”

  • Silver BMW: Tight hot pink sweater, hot pink cell phone, gold watch, bleached blonde hair.  Texting.
  • Black Mercedes: Cream-coloured turtleneck, elegant tan silk headscarf, big sunglasses, silver watch.  Alternately texting and changing radio stations.
  • Black car (I’m bad at guessing makes and models):  McDonald’s sticker in the back window, prayer book with gold Arabic lettering in the back seat, passenger mirror held together with duct tape.
  • Grey Toyota: Passenger and driver, both female, are texting.  Navy blue men’s blazer hanging up in the back seat.
  • Shiny red convertible with the top down: driver is a rotund bald man in a navy and white track suit drumming his fingers to the beat on his steering wheel.
  • Pedestrian in the drive thru: woman with short spiky bleached-blonde hair, black tights under a black sweater with a diamond-studded Mickey Mouse on the front.
  • Black BMW: blonde lady in a white tunic and jeans with a red scarf around her neck, multiple parking pass stickers on her window, tablet lying in the backseat, texting.
  • Gold Audi: guy in a crisp white button-down shirt and jeans, sunglasses, alternately cleaning his nails, picking his cuticles, brushing crumbs off the passenger seat and buffing his phone screen.
  • Black Hyundai: girl with long, dark brown hair in a salmon-coloured shirt, credit card in left hand, texting with her right, backseat full of shopping bags.
  • Silver BMW, guy in a dark brown leather jacket, holding a cigarette out the window in his bandaged left hand, kids books piled up in the back window, Mac sticker on the back of the car.
  • Black BMW: guy in a navy blue suit with a burgundy tie with an ID tag clipped to it, dark sunglasses, checking phone and messing with air vents.
  • Silver Mercedes with the topper pulled off and a “Mercedes” sun shade folded up in the backseat: light blue button down with military insignia/pins on chest and shoulder, brown suit jacket hanging up in the back, putting in headphones to talk on his cell.
  • Gold sedan: stocky youngish balding guy in a long-sleeved black shirt talking on the phone with his left hand and trying to open a Marlboro package with his right, box of Kleenex in the backseat.
  • Silver SUV: girl in a grey t-shirt with long brown hair pulled up in a ponytail counting change and driving without touching the wheel
  • Beat up older silver BMW with dents and peeling paint on the roof: guy in a grey wool suit, red and white striped tie, NOT texting (!), Harley Davidson baseball hat in the back window.
  • Shiny silver BMW: guy in dark Aviators with a neat beard and mustache, big silver watch, grey hoodie with orange lettering on it.
  • Black SUV: girl with long black hair in a long-sleeved grey comfy shirt, a glass of tea (I assume) in her putting it in the cup holder and carefully applying hand lotion.
  • Teal Super Safari SUV: guy in a grey t-shirt, silver watch, big muscles eating a shawarma.
  • Dark grey sedan: two guys in dark suits, the mirror on the passenger side popped in like they’d park in a tight spot recently, driver with his head in his left hand leaning out the window, then checking his watch, then popping a breath mint from a green tin.
  • Black Range Rover with tinted windows: woman in a black blazer with bright red nails checking something in a red file folder on the passenger seat.
  • Dark grey Range Rover - woman with long straight black hair, no phone in hand (!), a large-faced watch on, sunroof open, grey t-shirt and sweatpants...oh, wait, now she’s got her phone out...
  • Tiny black KIA: stuffed full of two middle-aged men, the driver (who bears a remarkable resemblance to King Abdullah) fiddling with the bills in his left hand while talking and gesticulating wildly to his passenger with his right.
  • Pale yellow new VW Bug with the front VW logo bit curiously missing: big fake yellow Gerber daisy on the dashboard, girl with a red baseball hat, grey hoodie with brown fur trim and big sunglasses, brown wallet open on her lap displaying at least a dozen cards, left hand tapping on the car roof out her open window, right hand scrolling and swiping on a MASSIVE smartphone...and, oh, there’s the VW hood ornament lying on her backseat...
  • Dark grey Mercedes: two women in the front, both with long, flowing black hair.  Driver is in a neon yellow t-shirt with her nails painted an identically blinding shade.  Her passenger, in a long white t-shirt, has neon pink nails and a bracelet to match.  Driver holds up her gold iPhone over the steering wheel and tries to take a selfie, but when she can’t seem to get the right angle, she hands her friend the phone and strikes a pose...

    Proving yet again that the Middle East isn’t all teapots and carpets and veils.  


Wow, very observant, very interesting!