INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

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The Benz.

.البنز

An old mercedes is to the highways of the Gulf what a rented vélo is to a Paris bike lane, or what a rocky mountain oyster is to the diet of people who like to eat gonads. Driving cars is more Emirati than air conditioning, and Mercedes, especially the old ones, are the staple of a simpler era with smaller buildings and bigger Aviators. In the Arab World, models and shapes of the cars have nicknames — C Class in the late 90s were Abu Dama’, Father Tears, for their big headlights; S Class were Abu Ayun, Father Eyes, for a similar look. The ’92 model I found on Dubizzle — the UAE’s Craigslist — and bought with two friends was called just Shabah. Ghost.

For our first date, we took her out onto the docks, the only place in the city where there are no traffic cameras and no speed limits. Past a line of cargo ships and lit by the harbor is a straightaway made for test drives with just one rule: break before you crash into the breakwater and fly out into the water towards Iran. It didn’t make it much faster than 140 kph in the half kilometer-long track, but where every previous test drive felt wrong, she felt absolutely right. The dark gray, nearly black SA 320 had boxy wide hips and drove like a boat, and so earned its first nickname: HMS Matsuflex. (The latter, of course, is a character from VH1’s “Tool Academy” known for a) being a tool, and b) black spiky hair.

Ryan, aka "Matsuflex"

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