Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yes, I have a personal driver

I am very happy to say that last Tuesday, after picking out CVs and interviewing 6 potential drivers (or, if you're feeling snobish, chauffeurs), my car-share buddy, K. and I hired a driver. His name is Mr. Azad. I am, and I'm sure Mr Azad is too, very glad that one more person in Bangladesh now has a job. (and a pretty decent one at that.)

When I talk to people (friends, family and the random I meet you on my travels) the fact that seems to most shock people is the fact that I have a driver. The idea that a woman (Morshida)

comes to my house 5 days a week to make me breakfast and pack my lunch, do my grocery and misc shopping, clean the entire place and do my laundry- in addition to some cooking (She made falafel today, which was just so wonderful)- seems to be wow, but not too big of a stretch of the imagination. But that I don't actually drive myself places, but sit nice and calmly in the back and just state my destination, with great door-to door service- well. That part of the story gets noticed.

Now, although I say "calmly" that is only with great effort, due to the large number of people shoving deformed limbs and starving babies up against the glass of the windows.

Not everyone has a driver here in Dhaka, but most expatriates do. And I have two solid reasons for why I hire a driver.

1) Bangladesh is a heavily populated country (half the population of the USA, in a space the size of Iowa. - and oh yeah, it floods.) And there are simply not enough jobs to go around. If I hire someone, that's one more person who can have the wonderful blessing of self esteem of being able to feed his (all drivers are male) family and earn an honest wage. I feel really good about that.

2) To drive in Bangladesh (and stay somewhat sane) you either have to be a professional driver and/ or completely devalue human life. Driving here is more like playing a video game, as you (and everyone else on the road- rickshaws, cyclists, CNGs (which are for all intents and purposes, a motorized rickshaw that looks like a green cage on wheels) cars, SUVs and crazy battered buses often with drugged up drivers) are jocking for that little space that just opened up. Just a little bit so you can advance before the next guy- and all this is done with just as much concern for human life that a 7 year old feels when s/he looses one "life" on a video game. And of course, we can't neglect the "magic hand" effect. Add to the mix a slew of pedestrians that think putting their hand out is an effect way to stop a rickshaw, CNG, car, SUV or bus coming at them at full speed as they casually meander across the road. Truly, magic if I've ever seen it. Seeing as I'm not willing to stress myself out or reduce human life to video game status, I'm very happy employing a professional who has driven in these conditions for 20+ years.

So, One more man from the mass of humanity in Bangladesh is happily employed and I will arrive safely and sanely at all my desired destinations.

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