5 Things That Peeve Me About Beirut
If you live in Beirut, not every day feels like you’re basking in the Paris of the Middle East — unless by Paris you mean narrow streets whose sidewalks are sullied with dog feces. How that city passes off as the most refined in the world escapes me. But that’s beside the point of this post.
The point is that Beirut is not always a ravishing dreamland, and I suppose its denizens are rather well acquainted with that. From the reckless drivers who brazenly cut you off or swerve in front of you with hardly a sidelong glance, to the heavily polluting jalopies which no doubt failed (or avoided) mécanique but have yet to be pulled off the roads, there’s no shortage of headache-inducing faux pas around these parts.
Here are my ultimate pet peeves about the Lebanese capital city.
Smoking in Public Places
We live in the second decade of the 21st century, so isn’t it high time we jumped on the no-smoking bandwagon? I stroll through the popular outdoor mall Beirut Souks almost daily, and I’m profoundly disturbed by the droves of people who smoke without care in this child-dense public place. The corridors reek with smoke, as smokers suck on their toxic white cylinders only to exhale into the breathing public’s lungs.
|Photo source: http://www.viralandmore.com
And it’s not only Beirut Souks. Any restaurant, café, or venue is equally likely to suffer from smoking. I attended a private function Saturday morning at The Junkyard in Mar Mikhael, and the small greenhouse-like space quickly fogged up with the fumes of cigarette smoking. I bolted just as the event got underway – my health and well-being come first. And as far as I’m concerned, if you’re smoking in the midst of a sea of nonsmokers, be considerate and snub it out. Why should we bear the brunt of your decision?
Parking in Public Places
Almost as rare as clean air in Beirut is free public parking. Don’t you just love how every available plot of land gets transformed into a parking lot? It’s a profitable venture for the little of ambition.
Last month, I was in Jal el Dib for a blood test and figured I’d save a few thousand liras by parking next door to the lab, just outside a closed-down shop. Materializing from thin air, a man dressed in plainclothes told me to move my car. I inquired why, if the business had shuttered and boasted empty space in front of it. Brushing me off, he insisted I relocate my car to a parking lot. Who was he to police me around? And why was he barking as though I were infected with the bubonic plague?
I have adopted a strict no-go policy in Lebanon: excepting malls and hotels, if I cannot park for free within walking distance of my destination, I simply will not go. And frankly, I don’t care how enticing or unique that vendor's goods are; they shall remain a mystery so long as its valet vultures ambush every would-be guest. Valet parking is a service, NOT an imposition.
|Photo source: http://www.valetparkingmiami.com/
Lack of Recycling
The trash crisis hit Lebanon nearly two years ago, but its stench can still be smelled throughout the country. I don’t understand what’s so hard about implementing a recycle-reduce-reuse program on a massive scale! Malls have done a decent job of introducing separate receptacles for paper, recyclables, and waste, but what about schools and corporations? Why can’t every city be dotted with recycling centers that comp you for empty water bottles, soda cans, and glass?
Why does recycling require so much effort in this country? Only a few NGOs lay claim to such facilities, but even then, you usually have to arrange your own drop-off to their inconvenient locations. We can do so much more and painlessly, too.
|Photo source: http://greenarea.me
Why pay city taxes annually if potholes are never filled, roads remain unevenly paved after drilling, and trash is left to collect ominously on the sides of roads? Near our home, there’s a 10-meter stretch of public land where dumpsters overflowing with garbage act as a play place for stray cats, rats, mosquitoes, and other vermin. A myriad of residential buildings lies within 50 meters of this hazardous zone, but why doesn’t the city act in the interest of their health?
|Photo source: https://newsela.com (AP/Bilal Hussein)
I’m well aware that the government hasn’t come to an agreement on a holistic garbage solution, but municipalities have taken it into their own hands to sort out the waste fiasco within their boundaries. More can certainly be done.
Foolishness in General
At the B4 parking entrance to Beirut Souks, there are two lanes to enter, each with an automated kiosk for either processing membership swipe cards or dispensing tickets to visitors. The left lane can service both cards and tickets, while the right lane only accepts cards. A dinky white paper with barely visible black script in size 16 font is taped to a structural column to indicate this. How are drivers supposed to notice it?
Ever think to post a prominent red and white metallic sign spelling it out in huge text before the bi-lane fork? Why do I need to curse my fate and the parking administration’s senselessness nearly every single morning as I back up for drivers who inadvertently queued in the right lane? Just print a huge sign already!
Care to add to this list? I know something's boiling and bubbling in you. Spill out your Beirut pet peeves in the comments section below!