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Captain Arsehole and the Pimpwagon

Walking home last night I was crossing a side street. For once the traffic lights were working and I had a green man. I was about three steps into the street when the arsehole mentioned above came zipping round the corner at high speed in his VW Touareg.

Anyone who lives in Tirana knows the type: young, leather jacket, usually yacking on a mobile phone, black pimpwagon - Touareg, X5 or ML500, totally contemptuous of every other road user. The arseholes are too young and the pimpwagons too numerous to be legit, so I really shouldn't be surprised that a bunch of thieves, extortioners and drug dealers think the rules don't apply to them.

Unfortunately, it's not just these particular morons who break the rules. Plenty of ordinary people in their 20 year old Merc's do the same. And why not? No-one stops them. There is no penalty for breaking the rules, so why expect anyone to keep the rules?

I've never quite worked this one out. The obvious assumption would be that the traffic cops are corrupt and everyone just buys them off. Undoubtedly there is an element of this, but there are plenty of traffic cops on the streets and every day drivers break the rules while the cops look on and do nothing.

What Tirana needs is some Nigerians and a plan. In London, most traffic wardens are West Africans and most of those Nigerians. They are calm in the face of abuse and sometimes violence, and incorruptible. (You can read all about them in the Spectator, the Observer or the Independent.)

Here's the plan. Month 1 - the advertising campaign, warning motorists of the coming crackdown. Serious violators would continue to be ticketed; the rest would be advised to change their habits quickly. Month 2 - zero tolerance implementation of all traffic laws, but with reduced fines. Month 3 - zero tolerance implementation with full or increased fines.

This would have three beneficial outcomes: it would establish the connection between the law on paper and the law in practice - something that is sadly lacking here; it would provide a healthy revenue stream for the city which could be reinvested in public transport; it would transform the quality of life for the citizens of Tirana.

Of course, Captain Arsehole and his scumbag friends would still want to display their contempt for the law and for the decent people of Tirana as they does now. So harsher measures would be required. If they refused to pay their fines, confiscate their cars and sell them. If they threaten violence, force them to drive around in 10 year old Opels. I can think of no worse punishment.

Simple isn't it? I don't know why the Albanian government bothers with expensive consultants. I could come up with much better solutions at much more reasonable prices.

And yes I am aware that in this post I have referred to some of the people of Albania as arseholes, morons and scumbags, but only a small, nasty minority of them. And I'm pretty sure the great majority of Albanians think the same way and could, indeed, come up with even more colourful descriptions of them if asked.

Comments

Selfmaderadio said…
Yes, Alwyn we think the same. I believe tthat as long as albanian politicians haven't filled up their pockets nothing will change. Some things are easy to be done, as you say, no external advise needed only some reflections, or some reasonable use of brain, but external advise is a possibility to get some more money in the pocket. On the other hand, our politicians are the first one not to respect the trafic rules. That's their way to show that they exist and that they are the power above the low. People just follow.
Anonymous said…
Very good plan,

Wholeheartedly support it, I also wish they could bring in some form of congestion charge area for central Tirana, only it should include all of it.

Radical plans for radically lazy folk that can't be bothered to walk 100m anymore.

Hajt mirupafshim
Blendi said…
Alwyn, I think I wanna translate this into Albanian and have it discussed at Peshkupauje.com

What do you say?
traveller one said…
I can't think of a better plan- now let's get somebody to listen!
DAI said…
Right on, Alwyn! Submit your plan directly to the Mayor (no need for translation), and possibly to the chief of Traffic Police (whoever that may be). May be they'll lend an ear......
Also forward same to a daily newspaper (with large circulation).
Public image of what goes on in Albania, especially based on excellent observation by a foreigner, may also trigger more attention by some power to be......

BTW, welcome back! Look forward to seeing you next month.
Anonymous said…
Taking away a Touareg owners car, will not dissuade him from driving. So what is your solution then just semantics? The problem in Albania is that there is nothing tangible behind the fines. They don't go into your record, your drivers license is not taken away, you don't go to jail because you drive without a license. Traffick violations in Albania are like parking tickets here, those who can afford it park in the invalid parking space all the time.
pmusaraj said…
Excellent observations Alwyn.
ourmanintirana said…
Thanks for your comments all. Blendi, feel free to translate and post. I would be interested in a summary of the responses.

Regarding taking their cars away, I was being facetious at that point, but I take your general point about the difficulty of dealing with the issue without a wider bureaucratic and institutional framework.

A serious plan for dealing with traffic in the city would have to deal with those aspects as well, but in the short term enforcing financial penalties would be a good start. Sure those who have the flash cars can pay it, but make them pay - over and over again. Also, clamp their vehicles until they do pay. Make life as inconvenient for them as they make it for other people.

The other huge quality of life factor regarding vehicles in Tirana concerns emissions. Getting polluting vehicles of the road would make life much more pleasant and much more healthy. But that is a much more complex challenge.
strangeMAN said…
I believe that the problem goes even deeper than an action-reaction approach. People here need to understand the consequenses of their actions, the importance of acting by the law and not breaking it. But they don't know the law. They don't have a clue. It takes 300Euros and a 2 pictures to get a Driver's Licence here. THIS should not be allowed. This is the main cause of what we are discussing.

Glad to have u back OMIT.
Anonymous said…
Haha

It reminded me of this article...I have a feeling it must be something in the air

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/23/books/23grim.html?ex=1313985600&en=f447f7798e7efeec&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Great post
Amour Monde said…
You are damn right
but the main problem in Albania is:that this small minority of arseholes,morrons,lead the rest of all Albanians.and this is too difficult to be arenged.
Blendi said…
http://www.peshkupauje.com/kapiten-plehra-dhe-mjeti-i-luksit/2007/03/28/

Alwyn, the post was translated and put up this morning. So far the responses have been mixed. most people agree traffic is a mess. Some became defensive, they had nice cars. Some others found it very interesting that Nigerians have taken over this line of work in London, but we like our Nigerians to be soccer players...

One thinks its easy for you because a foreigner in Albania has privileged status

The topic is certainly interesting to a lot of people.
Anonymous said…
"The arseholes are too young and the pimpwagons too numerous to be legit, so I really shouldn't be surprised that a bunch of thieves, extortioners and drug dealers think the rules don't apply to them."

The Tuaregs are sold by VW at Kavaja Street. My family has a percentage in partnership there and my cousin works there. If you had been reading the news, the Tuaregs since 2005 have been very successful for VW. I don't remember the numer they sold, it was on the papers, but i know my cousin was always at work.

MAYBE YOU ARE JUST JEALOUS. ARSEHOLE.

yep my cousin has a tuareg. I hope he was driving the one in your story!

Youa re probably jealous that Albanians are getting richer!! Why doesn't that please you?

I'll get myself e Mercedes because I deserve it, after all these years of work. I'll buy it from the factory in Germany, stick an Albanian flag on it and drive it to TIRANA! Life is good!
Anonymous said…
"What Tirana needs is some Nigerians and a plan. In London, most traffic wardens are West Africans and most of those Nigerians"

What now you want to make ALbania Niggerville like TOronto?

Forgetaboudit

you jerk!
Anonymous said…
look buddy, you are here probably to do some Un work in Albania, and some stealing like all foreigners do in Albania, but you are not in any position to give us your shit. You are coming up with radical Enver Hoxha like implementation,
who are you to think that your ideas can do the rule in Albania.

From your other posts, you have criticized the way the buildings look, the drivers etc. You think that we are dumb and we haven't noticed anything? It's jsut right now there is no money for extensive administrative new programs. We are in the building phase now. When we have finishes some tasks like the property laws etc that are more important we will do what follows next. You just have seen Albania now, but before 1990 Tirana was very green and orderly. We know how things should be. The people here that support you know it too. Why you think that they haven't thought about it?
Just please don't become bossy. It doesn't suit you!
Anonymous said…
"Simple isn't it?"

No, it's only you who sees the simplicity, we are morons...

Try living life with the average Albanian stipend=> $4800/year. Then we talk.

Where would the gov collect tax money for all these expensive programs from? From who?

Right now, people need no taxes. We need to get richer. We need to catch up with the world.

When all the houses are finished building, then we will finish working on the street.

Little by little. There is order in things.

Maybe the best thing you could do is handing your project idea at the local gov, and then if you really are so much genius finding the money to fund it!

Funding for proper signalisation int he streets, funding for driving license projects,books, uitions, printing proper driving licenses that cannot be faked (geez I can easily buy a fake one here in Toronto to get into pubs what makes oyu think i cant get one in Albania?mr genius?), funding for standard high quality testing everywhere in Albania, funding for police re-education to the new rules, funding for new personnel to implement all these changes....

When you ahve all the money ready, come and give us your shit!!!

Otherwise, thank you very much for your ideas, but, no, thank you.
vloraboy said…
WOW....Our Man...

I am sorry for some of the comments here by the "anonymous" people that are too blind to see and admit the truth.

I actually appreciate your views and value every comment you have made so far in your blog. Traffic is a big problem in Albania, and the bottom line is that the government needs to do something about it. We all know that they have their hands full, but that is no excuse to deny that there is problem and nothing can be done about it.

Anonymous with a Mercedes (in the future), I hope you get the car you want, and I agree with you...you deserve it. Your cousin probably deserves his Touareg too...but that is still no excuse for you to close your eyes to the problems in Albania. Traffic in Albania is like a jungle with the guys in nice cars generally being the lions who win all the time, because the guy driving an old opel cannot afford to hit one of the expensive cars and have to fix it.

As far as the Nigerians go, OMIT just used an example about London, so don't take it verbatim about having to bring Nigerians to Albania to fix our problem.

And one last thing, I definitely understand the skepticism about foreigners in Albania. Having personally met OMIT (une jam vlonjat) I can say without doubt that he is probably the coolest foreigner that ever stepped foot in Albania.
Anonymous said…
no no people with English heritage are stupid in this regard. They emptied the Uk and they went to North America and London looks like Saudi Arabia with hijabs.
When I saw hijabs in Toronto in highschool i was shocked and disgusted.
They can really bring Nigerians in Albania, they have different morals from us. To them it seems like ok.

But on one side i think the idea might work, coz Albanians will get scared that the Nigerians will come so they will start behaving better.

You remember some mothers when they feed little kids in Albania. If the kid doesn't want to it then the mom scares him and tells him that the monster "gogol" will come if you don't eat.

Our man,
Don't get insulted. But you are the one who started this by putting swearing words in the title. I'm also offended that you stereotype people with tuaregs with criminals, because the tuaregs are sold legally in Kavaja street.
So that means that you have some animosity towards Albanians, so that means that you don't like me, so that means that i shouldn't like you either....

I'm osrry that guy did that to you. I'm 100% sure my cousin didn't do it. He is one of the best drivers that i have seen and he is very nice to people.

You have to be careful and look left and right before you cross!
Foreigners have accidents in Tirana, and also emigants that have lived for many years abroad coming on holidays in Albania, unfortunately end up in crashes. (there was a special report on top-channel last summer on tv about this because of the high wave of accidents).

Left-Right-Cross.Keep that in mind! You don't want to be feeling the hot asphalt (if there is any), and then you don't want to experience the hospitals in Albania. Then you'll want to come up with a project for the whole health care system. By the way there has been debating and plans for more than 10 years about it, but it still comes to the money problem...

Look at the brigh side, it will highten your reflexes, make you more attentive.

In general, in Tirana, you cannot expect a driver to stop for you. The population of Tirana is very dense. In Toronto, I don't see people in the streets in the neighbourhood i live, so it is logical that a car would stop for the rare random pedestrian.

It's not only in Tirana like that. If you've been to Italy, Greece, or even in Paris, or Downtown Toronto, you cannot expect the driver to yield for you.

But in your case, since you had the GREen light, you have the right.

I think, in general, that Albanian drivers are the best in the world. They don't drive automatic cars, and they drive in the most intense and difficult situations. I mean, how do they do it without signs? How do they all seemingly cooperate everyday non-stop without killing each other and crashing evrywhere?
It takes great social understanding and cooperation.
Albanian drivers are very friendly. They honk in sign of friendship, but as i discovered in Canada when i honked at people, i got the finger. no problem, life goes on.

Then imagine those drivers in the hair-pin curvy roads of Balls, Mallakaster or Llogara. What about the drivers with the old vehicles driving evryday from Kosovo to Albania through mountains, in those road conditions?

On one side, if we had better rules and signalization in Albania, i think more people would be encouraged to drive. I know so many people there who don't want to get e license because they are afraid of driving. Think of all the pololution and congestion if everyone had a car. We don't even have a lot of space to build roads in Albania, it's not like North America. 75% of the country is mountains and we need the land of the fields for crops for food and not to make it cement and asphalt.
I think that since Europe is smaller than Canada and it's population is bigger than the whole North America, we should go for public transit. I like the trains in France, Germany, The Netherlands, etc.
Anonymous said…
Vloraboy,
Don't feel sorry and apologetic. He started swearing, and I don't want to be a arse-kisser just because he is a foreigner.

In Albania, everyone has a mind of his own, and we have many ideas. Right now we need money.

Without it the world in capitalism doesn't go round.

If you came here before 1990, people would volunteer and fix things themselves, everything was shared and public, everyone was the government.

But because of all those years that money in Albania had no meaning, people couldn't save.

Everything that was in Albania, before 1990, even the factories that got detroyed in the early 90s, were all volunteer work which takes a lot of cooperation and social interaction and organisation among people.

Evrything was built from scratch.


Your grandparents, and your parents worked all their lives, they saved, and now they're ok.
But my grandparents, who all 4 of them had univ degrees worked overtime all their life and got nothing.

Right now we need to catch up and frankly i can see what is wrong, but i can sacrifice some things for now to get my bank account in order.
Anonymous said…
Ourmanintirana

Yea i understand your anger. I was in Tirana this summer and a bus almost ran my foot over. I was used to the Canadian system where the cars stop for you.

I got so pissed about that that i punched the window of the bus and cracked it. The bus eventually stopped and everybody was looking.

Ahhh it felt good!! those morons deserve it.

Andrew!!
ourmanintirana said…
My My. My. We are touchy.

Anonymous - whichever one you are - don't worry, I'm not insulted, not even by your racist bigotry.

So you are offended? Tough.

Generally, I will let those Albanians who know me judge whether I am a thieving foreigner who doesn't like Albanians.

Jealous? No. I prefer Japanese cars.

Finally, where I come from 'arsehole' isn't considered a swear word. Sorry, didn't realise some of you were so sensitive.
Selfmaderadio said…
Anonymous,

Nowhere in his text did ourman complain about your cousin or blaimed him for either selling Touareg or for driving one. Neither did he complain that your tourag-driving cousin is a bad driver. Ourman is talking about that group of arseholes and pimps that, also happened to drive a Toureg, mostly stolen (read todays albanian press) and do not respect anybody, mostly because they feel so powerful that they don't feel like they have to respect anybody. This group of people isn ot only ourman's problem, this is everybody's problem in Tirana. I hear this story everytime I am in Tirana from tirana people. So, please, what is your problem? Why did you personalize the story? It wasn't your story why did you make it yours? I also didn't read anywhere in Alwyn's text that the albanian's do not need the money, or don't need to get rich, or whatever you are talking about. He is talking about a general problem that he is is facing, like everybody else in the city, not like a foreigner but like a citizen of that city. What's wrong with that? Do people need now to ask your permition before they talk? And do we have to face your word pollution for everything we say that it doesn't please your ego or your taste?
ourmanintirana said…
Thanks Selfi. Expressed more clearly than I ever could.
strangeMAN said…
Why has anyone gotten so patriotic about this thing? why does it have to be: foreigners are crooks, we are all OK? Why can't each and everyone of us see that there are some seriously wrong things about the way we behave? This isn't about foreigners stealing Albania's money and resources. Some of them do, this is clear, but this is not the problem here. It could have been me, or you, or your mother or sister on that road.

Does anyone remember that our last prime minister was accused of killing someone with his car some years ago, and only a parliamentary vote kept him from being judged in a court? Now, this is smth we should talk about.
ITS said…
I know Our Man in Tirana,

He's a good guy, and the personal attacks on him are just ridiculous. People need to get a life.

On the other side I did find the whole problem overly simplistic, that's why I refrained from commenting earlier.

We, as Albanians have a problem with authority, order, and respect for one-another. We were all de-humanized by communism, and the healing process is going to be very slow and long.

How can you expect people to follow traffic directions, if they can't fucking hold a proper line at a bakery, or at the bus stop. There is always a mob of people, everybody for themselves. Everybody trying to get their rocks off first. Everybody with the absolute conviction that they are more important than everybody else.

I can't blame my people. We have just been very unfortunate with our recent history... Outsiders will never understand.
bizele said…
This just goes to show how sensitive we are as a nation, and how proud we have to be, that even when we are surrounded everywhere by our own reality we deny it (or in this case come up with all sorts of explanations and justifications in our defense) just so that we can keep up with the facade that we want to present to the world...does it ever occur to us to think about solutions for once?

Anonymous: please do enjoy your Mercedes when you get it. But, please enjoy it for your own sake not for that of the others who will get to see you driving it.

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Whimper

And now the end is near
and so i face nanananana...

Never did like that crappy song.

But it's true nevertheless.

Tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning we will be heading for the airport for the last time. I suppose it was too much to expect that I could have kept this going while getting ready to leave. So apologies for the lack of postings over the last weeks. This is post number 380 something so I suppose one post every two days is not a bad average.

There were probably 380 more in my head or scribbled down on scraps of paper, but many of them are perhaps best left there.

I suppose I should be penning - or typing - my final thoughts and reflections on two years in Tirana, but right now I don't have any. Maybe in a month or two though I might come back with something.

Thanks to all of you who have read this blog - especially those of you who have become regulars. Thanks also for linking and thanks to all who left comments.

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