Two tickets in as many days…for the first time in six years. What is going on in Beirut? It seems that the police has a nice little New Year resolution, namely to issue as many tickets as possible. Granted, the tickets were indisputable, but still, this is Beirut where you hardly ever get a ticket.
The first ticket was for double parking because I had to pick up our daughter from garderie. Every day, either Brigitte or I park there, as do many other people and it has never been a problem. Until now. Without any announcement, it seems that the police has started a crackdown on traffic violations in Hamra.
Take Abdel-Azziz, e.g., the street that leads down from Hamra to the beginning of Bliss. Suddenly, the police has shown up and has started issuing tickets all through the day every day. Again, people are not supposed to park on the right side of the street, but it has never been a problem before.
The second ticket was given to Brigitte for going against traffic. There’s this little alley of not even 50 meters which provides a shortcut literally saving you 30 minutes of traffic jam. Many people use this alley, like the taxi in front of her, who wasn’t fined or the wrinkly-dinky car in front of the taxi, who wasn’t fined either. Class justice, anyone?
The fine for driving against traffic is a staggering 50,000 Lebanese pound, which is roughly 35 USD. Just to give you an idea, this fine equals the amount of 296 USD in the Netherlands, based upon percentage of minimum wage. That’s serious money alright. No wonder he didn’t ticket the service driver or the owner of that old car. But when a nice SUV comes along…
Certainly, I am the last person to complain about class justice, not after my article on the raid of Crystal. But there is something unfair about how the police seemingly issues tickets only to those who can afford it and not to people who break the law full stop.
The worst was yet to come, though: paying the ticket and collecting your driver license, which the police confiscate. Interesting enough, they let you keep on driving after they take your license, which is an offence by itself
Paying the ticket can only be done during office hours at either the Post Office or at a bookstore called Malik’s. Since Malik’s opens late, you’d figure you can pay the ticket during opening hours, right? Wrong. The guy at Malik’s who’s responsible for collecting payments is only in his office from 8 to 5...sigh
Collecting your driving license can only be done at a certain police station far away from Hamra, where the ticket was issued. You’d think you can pick up your license anytime the station is open, right? Wrong again: the guy responsible for giving back your license only works from 8 to 2. That's your tax dollars at work…sigh again.
The Lebanese police makes the aftermath of a ticket so annoying, it almost makes you want to follow the rules…and the sad part is, I’m pretty sure they don’t even do this on purpose.
Update: The L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper reported on Saturday that the Internal Security Forces have launched a campaign to enforce traffic regulations. The Lebanese police has been instructed to crackdown on violations such as running a red light, talking on mobile phone while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, wrongful parking and going against traffic. So be warned.