Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not Only In Egypt

About a week ago the net flickered and died out here in Abu Sir. We had to haul in our telephone company to check the lines (Gee! There are about 6 breaks in this section!) and our internet company to check the lines afterwards, and now we are back in the cybersphere. While my connection was down, I would go to a friend's place every couple of days to check my email. I'd delete anything not essential, not having much time to waste on things that I could usually meander through. One of the things that I did do, however, was to read my online New York Times. There was an article in it on the 23rd about how Philadelphia was in the grip of manhole mania... with the price of iron on the rise, they are being stolen.

Now this is a story I can identify with! Disappearing manhole covers are a fact of life in Egypt too. In the US they are trying to come up with a way of locking them so that they can't be stolen, but we deal with the problem in another way. Road Sculpture is the Egyptian solution to open manholes, as it is often also the solution to things like broken down buses on the side (or even middle) of the road. Road Sculpture is the artful placement of tree branches, stones, bricks, or even barrels in the road to indicate that there is something, aside from the tree branches, stones, bricks, or barrels that a motorist might wish to avoid.

It can be quite disconcerting to be driving peacefully, or as peacefully as one can drive in Egypt, down a road only to spy some anomalous object right spang in the middle of the thoroughfare. Having come from a basically law-abiding tidy society in Toronto, my initial response was to think "Good grief! Someone could hit that and have a nasty accident!" But after a while I came to understand that leaving large dangerous objects in the middle of the road was an attempt to PREVENT accidents. Of course. It makes all the sense in the world.

So maybe we need to export some of our road sculptors to the US to teach them how to avoid accidents while beautifying the roadways. Just imagine what the Highway Patrol would say.

copyright 2008 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani