Saturday, 20 October 2007


I've always found taxi drivers to be essential to getting a quick feel for how things are going in a particular country at a particular time. Mr Ghulam, our 'regular' driver, is no different. A Ghulam's eye view of the world is often an interesting counterpart to my own.

Travelling, I always make sure to talk to any cabbies I meet. This has often resulted in me having a remarkable 'inside view' of the place I've just landed in. Once, in Jordan, it resulted in me having my fortune told by an excellent numerologist. He was also, incidentally, driving the taxi but he was better known in his circle as a numerologist and was consulted by many as a result of his talents. I could see why - an uncanny reading and a refreshingly careless attitude to the less metaphysical question of foreign objects occluding with our own co-ordinates in the space time continuum meant that I was deeply glad to be able to get to the end of the reading with no direct reference made to the imminence of my meeting with my maker. That meeting is not one I am particularly keen to hasten as I am keenly aware that said maker is going to be expressing a great deal of disappointment, probably forcibly.

Anyway, Mr. Ghulam's highly amused that the UAE's petrol pumpers (with the exception of ADNOC, for some reason) have decided not to accept credit card transactions - a situation that I hate to say I predicted some time ago as the result of the nasty little spat between the petrol companies and the credit card companies. Ghulam's point of view is that they're forecourt pirates who are charging too much for petrol anyway and should give the banks the fees they're demanding.

My own personal view is, not unreasonably, that the overwhelming majority of bankers are scum and should be hung from meathooks - particularly anyone whose bank has the letters H, B, C and S in their names. I'm hugely amused to see the UAE's petrol companies take on Visa and Mastercard as the card companies try to levy their payment taxes. I'm sure the little guys (the petrol companies) won't win in the end. But there's a 'Passport to Pimlico' sort of David against Goliath fight against bullying, faceless force and willful bureaucracy that the Brit in me admires immensely.

Trust a cabbie to have it in for the petrol companies, of course. I always enjoy chatting with the cabbies at Heathrow about how much I pay for petrol here in the UAE (we pay per gallon what they pay per litre, a fun challenge for people with scientific calculators to work out what the ratio actually is I'm sure). It cheers them up, the poor dears.

I've always bought my petrol in cash. Just in case you're interested, Ghulam who, as a cabbie, is an expert, says that credit card accpeting petrol company ADNOC's a damn sight cheaper than anyone else anyway.

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