Mohammed, Mohammed and Mick
The Away Game | Micky McArdle | Abu Dhabi, erectile United Arab Emirates | Blog 003 | 3 March 2014
It wasn’t so much that I ended up on the platform of the gleaming Burjaman Station on the Dubai Metro with the older Mohammed – we’ll call him Older Mohammed – and the younger Mohammed – we’ll call him Younger Mohammed-that was remarkable. No, it was more the manner of our parting.
Younger Mohammed, a fine young stormwater engineer and colleague from Palestine, and I had arranged a meeting in our Dubai office with our client, Older Mohammed, from Saudi Arabia. The meeting was to start at 2:00pm and Young Mohammed and I were making great progress along the Sheikh Zayed Road into Dubai when, all off a sudden, the traffic tsunami rolled towards us, brakes, lights lit up across all six lanes and hazard lights started flashing.
The road was closed for a cycle race.
With the length of Dubai to traverse and only a half an hour to spare, I told our driver, Mustaffa (from India) to make a beeline for the nearest Metro Station. He took off across the sandy, pot-holed track towards Ibn Battuta Station where Younger Mohammed and I jumped on the driverless train. (Aside: Atkins, the company for whom I work, designed the Dubai Metro and, having travelled a few subways in my day, this is a superb example of public works infrastructure. See video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=615x7e8wXNU
With no driver, we could occupy the lead carriage and look out at the gentle curving track ahead and the impressive Dubai skyline to either side. In fact, just before the train arrived, Younger Mohammed and I marvelled at some safety aspects of the platform design where there is a sliding platform door so that, as the train arrives, nobody could accidentally fall or be pushed onto the tracks. This “safety” feature features later in my tale.
We were trying to squeeze our virile male bodies into a female-only carriage
We arrived 45 minutes late to meet Older Mohammed. Neither of us had met him before in person and, with him having made the journey from Jeddah, we were a little sheepish when he greeted us. We shouldn’t have worried. He was a genial gentleman. We got down to business. Stormwater management and flood protection. In Jeddah, in 2009, over 100 people, and probably a lot more, perished (see video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvCgCJCHwD4 and news article here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/dec/03/jeddah-floods-sewage-al-saud). We’re designing a project in Jeddah and had to discuss critical aspects of flood protection with Older Mohammed who works for the stormwater management programme in Jeddah. The meeting lasted a good three hours.
Older Mohammed had booked into a hotel in Jumeirah and wondered whether to grab a taxi or to take the Metro. I called Mustaffa who confirmed that the traffic was still horrendous so we suggested that Older Mohammed accompany Younger Mohammed and me on the Metro. We walked to Burjaman Station, bought a ticket for Older Mohammed and headed for the platform.
Wanting to showcase some Atkins’ design, we moved along to the start of the platform so that we’d be able to ride in the first carriage. Unlike a few hours earlier, it was now rush-hour and very crowded. The train pulled in, the platform and carriage doors opened and we were greeted by a wall of commuters. We tried to prise our way in through the sea of bodies but made no headway.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that those queuing for the second carriage had pushed their way inside and I shouted to the two Mohammeds to run for the second carriage which they dutifully did. With youth on his side, Younger Mohammed got there first. Being fit and sprightly I made it next, while Older Mohammed brought up the rear. Younger Mohammed ploughed into the seething, writhing mass of bodies while I pushed in behind him. Older Mohammed gamely followed.
Then it happened. Younger Mohammed was encountering strenuous resistance from our fellow commuters. “Get out!”, they shouted. “You are now allowed here!”, they cried. Prodding fingers were jabbed at him and, as I managed to join him, I was stabbed and prodded by the same fingers. It dawned on both of us simultaneously. We were trying to squeeze our virile male bodies into a female-only carriage. We both wheeled around to beat a hasty retreat back onto the platform. Older Mohammed, small in stature, was right behind me and couldn’t see the commotion ahead nor could he sense the overwhelming numbers of females, now hissing at us. Having executed the hasty U-turn, I pushed him ahead of me back towards the platform.
Then it happened again. The carriage doors and the platform doors closed on me as I was half in and half out. More in, than out, in truth. I yanked my arm clear as the doors closed fully. Younger Mohammed and I were enveloped in the warmth of our fellow commuters, all female. I could only catch a last, forlorn glimpse of a startled Older Mohammed, our client, alone on a strange platform in a strange city, as the train rolled out of Burjaman Station.
Younger Mohammed and I burst into uproarious laughter. We were being hissed at, prodded and generally made to feel unwelcome but we laughed all the way to the next station, Al Karama, our faces pressed to the glass.
Younger Mohammed’s phone rang. It was Older Mohammed wondering what he should do and where to get off for his hotel. Back in the office, I had already jokingly told him to watch us getting off at Ibn Battuta and to get off two stops before that at Jumeirah Lakes Towers, a localised version of the old Irish directions. I told Younger Mohammed to tell him this again. He did. I could hear Older Mohammed laughing back on the platform at Burjaman as Younger Mohammed and I escaped from the female carriage, ran along the platform, pushed our way into the third carriage and laughed all the way back to Ibn Battuta.
Another time, I’ll tell you about the time I single-handedly stopped the New York Subway at rush-hour on a Friday evening.