Saudi PhD student Hatoon Kadi, who is studying in the U.K. wrote this opinion piece in the Arab News on 1/20/14. A link to the story is here. Text below.
Hurry up! Quickly we will miss the tram and you will be late for school.
Well, this is the way our mornings usually start. In order to avoid the
usual and seemingly never-ending hassles, I have formulated perhaps
zillions of strategies (and still am) but to no avail.
Mom! Look, my
shoelace got stuck. Mom! Look, he stole my socks. Mom! I spilled milk on
my uniform. Phew. Not a single morning is passed without an incident.
Sometimes, I wonder what we usually see in movies relate by any means to
reality. Is there really something like a hassle-free morning? I doubt
Due to the last minute incidents or hiccups, one has to pay the
price especially when it comes to one’s dependence on public
transportation. Sometimes one has to pay the price in the form of
missing the bus or tram altogether. If you are lucky enough to catch
your ride in the nick of the time, you stay disoriented for a few
minutes trying to catch your breath or worst of all; you fall down a
slippery road on a rainy day trying to catch the tram. Only to get
infuriated by the bursts of laughter emanating from your own flesh and
blood i.e. your kids. One has no choice but to regain one’s composure
and blaming the children a bit embarrassingly: Hey you! That happened
because of you. You woke up late.
Well, I have already got a booking
for a practical driving exam but until that time I will continue to run
after trams. To be fair, living in a country with a very strong public
transportation system like the UK is a blessing but from a very personal
perspective, when you have children, relying on public transportation
is not very convenient and practical. Imagine carrying a sleeping
four-year-old and trying to mount the bus and sometimes no seats are
available so you will have to basically wait for someone who is very
well mannered to give up his/her seat for you because you look pathetic.
Still, for a family nothing beats having your own car and honestly when
I hear women in the Saudi society stating that they don’t want to
drive, they only want public transportation, and I just feel like
laughing. First of all, having a complete reliable public transportation
needs a very well-planned infrastructure, London’s famous underground,
for example, dates back to the 19th century, in addition to the fact
that the street’s are designed to let buses move seamlessly no matter
how heavy the traffic is, which makes services frequent and reliable.
be realistic, waiting for such a system to be introduced in Saudi
Arabia now looks like waiting for the proverbial “Mr. Right” who will
never come (or to be optimistic will come too late), and while waiting
the dilemma of hiring drivers/ drivers not available, drivers wants more
money will continue. And even after we have a public transportation
system, we will need the option to ride cars when we need, as carrying
loads of groceries in a bus is just not realistic in addition to other
factors. From another perspective as well, I completely understand that
initiatives around the world are being introduced to let people use
public transportation more as they are environment-friendly and use less
fuel than individual cars and are claimed to produce less carbon
emissions but still having your own car that can take you just whenever
you want is priceless. Public transport can be used when it’s convenient
and cars can be handy when needed, and needs never ends for families. I
know that I talk a lot about transportation and some people might say:
Hey! Get a life and stop talking about women driving. And I would say I
would continue raising the issue until it’s fully resolved.