Lebanese Scooter Drivers, otherwise known as LSD- because you think you are hallucinating when you see them- are some of the most common individuals you encounter in your everyday life Beirut. They are everywhere and deliver all sorts of things.
They are the first thing that scares you when you first get here, especially when you cross the street. You curse them for a while, but in time, you learn to appreciate their bravado (or stupidity depending from which angle you choose to see them). You just get used to them coming from all sides. And I must admit, they make me smile at least once a week.
You see, the LSDs have some special characteristics that make them fascinating individuals to me. Please allow me to recount them so you get a sense of their uniqueness:
LSDs are artists: they just don’t drive around a scooter in the streets of Beirut. They create their route. This can include driving on the sidewalk when there is too much traffic (zigzagging among pedestrians if necessary), doing a 3-point turn in between cars in a traffic jam or driving in the opposite direction of traffic on a highway. Pure talent.
LSDs are practical: If they have 2 kids and need to get somewhere, they’ll squeeze them in the front. If their giant German shepherd needs to go to the vet, they’ll squeeze it in the front (I have seen this with my own eyes). If they need to deliver an arguileh (water pipe) to someone’s house, they just squeeze it between their legs, drive the scooter with one hand while holding the burning coals on the other. Anything can be transported on a scooter. The sky is the limit.
LSDs are renegades: if someone wants to pass them, they go faster. If you are on their way (on the sidewalk) they’ll honk. If someone asks them to wear a helmet, they wear it without the strap (which makes me wonder why they are wearing it in the first place). If it rains, they’ll build a metal roof on their scooter. If there’s a little space to squeeze into, they’ll take it. They leave by the motto “You snooze, you loose”.
It takes some ballsy dudes to be LSDs (and sorry for the “dudes” but I haven’t seen any scooteryet in Beirut so far). Not any-one is allowed in this very selective club. I guess some of us just prefer the lameness (and safety) of our cars.