Coordinating a social life without considering the logistics of when a driver would arrive, when I would have to be ready to leave, coordinating drivers with my women friends who had families which shared one driver even with several vehicles, the amount of organization, disappointment and delays was part and parcel of life in the kingdom. And we were privileged women who had money and cars for drivers. Those women with less were utterly housebound as even taxi services were yet to be fully developed.
The first Arabic word I learned in the Kingdom was al-atul—“Straight On!” I would need it all the time when giving directions. The second word I learned was schweyah, meaning ‘ Slow Down!” That I would say obsessively, like a mantra. There in that Kingdom, in the back seat, I would hold on for dear life until I found my fantastic Egyptian Christian driver, Zacchariah, who would observe the sedate 40mph speed that I felt comfortable in while the rest of the country drove routinely above 80mph and sometimes over 100 mph. Meanwhile at work I pieced together countless victims of Saudi road trauma and pronounced (dead) a fair number too. The experience of both not driving, and witnessing the carnage as I went about my work as a critical care physician in a trauma intensive care unit, was enough to change my feelings about driving life-long.