“Road Warrior,” he said. “When I drive along this road, I like to think I’m in the movie ‘The Road Warrior’ with Mel Gibson. You know that one?” He doesn’t stop to wait for me to answer. “At any moment, I’m going to see people on top of cars shirtless with flamethrowers and shotguns and shit. I’ve been here four years now, and one of these days, swear to the good Lord, I’ll see some shirtless Arab with a flamethrower.” He spoke like he had chewing tobacco in his mouth. But he didn’t. Claimed he had quit many years ago.
We were driving in a brand new SUV down Al Karais. I watched as cars darted in front of us with reckless abandon while others were inching along the highway, their drivers trying to master the task of driving while playing games on their cellphones. The random barrage of slow moving cars and cars racing and darting in front of other drivers created a tightness in my chest. My colleague gripped the steering with two hand tensely, his eyes alert. Apparently, four years hadn’t made driving any easier.
“Always on their f*** phones,” he said pointing one out to me. Sure enough the driver’s eyes weren’t even on the road, nor were his hands on the wheel. Instead, his car was guided by elbows and what appeared to be sheer luck and belief. At intervals my colleague would yell, as if a mantra to relieve stress, “Get off your f**** phone!”
Off to the side of the road there were piles of rubble — bricks, stones, trash. At first, there was a random quality to this rubble, but then, as I looked closely, as I saw them in neat piles, it seemed as if there were a pattern to the piles of rubble.
“Does someone organize the rubble?” I asked.
“What? What kind of question is that? Does someone organize the rubble? No one organizes shit here. You see this clean SUV? The only reason it’s so clean is because our company REQUIRES it to be clean. If it were up to me, I’d smear as much dirt and shit as we could on it to help us blend in.”
My new colleague was playing the part of the callous oldtimer a little too well.
I looked off and saw dirt and rubble. Just beyond the dirt and rubble though I could make out the silhouettes of two skyscrapers. King Tower and Faisaliah Tower — the two symbols of irrational modernity in what my new friend called ‘The Road Warrior’ world.
“Where can I get my flamethrower? That’s what I want to know. I’ll put you up there tomorrow with a flamethrower. How would you like that?” Again, he didn’t stop to wait for my answer. He just kept talking and talking, filling the void of the desert and our oh-too-clean SUV with words upon meaningless words.
Then I started seeing the abandoned cars on the side of the road. I started counting…one abandoned car…two abandoned cars…abandoned pickup. .
Then I was distracted suddenly. A car was coming right for us, driving the wrong way on the highway. My new colleague expertly dodged him and another car that darted in front of us just as the other car coming toward us narrowly missed.
“Barbarian! Definitely ‘Road Warrior.’ God, I got to watch the movie again. Mel Gibson is such a badass in that movie.”