Reporters on the Job
• Driving Miss Bowers: It can be difficult to find your way around an unfamiliar city. But as staff writer Faye Bowers arrived in Riyadh to report the four-part series (page 7) "Saudi Arabia: On a Dagger's Edge," she found the capital particularly tricky to navigate. For example, there are no street addresses - only post-office box numbers.
No problem, Faye figures. As a woman in a country where women aren't allowed to drive, she'll hire a "professional" male driver. "I climb into the car, call my first appointment, and hand the cellphone to my Pakistani driver so he can get directions from the woman I'm going to see. He says 'na'am, na'am (yes)' several times," says Faye.
After 15 minutes of driving, Faye gets the feeling they're going in circles. "We pass the same strip malls, Tamimi Market, and a row of palm trees at least three times," she says. Faye calls again, and hands the phone to the driver. "He says na'am, na'am, and off we go."
After four attempts, Faye calls her source in frustration. "She tells me 'look up to your right,' and there she is waving to me from her office window two blocks up the hill."
Faye doesn't blame her driver. Here's a typical set of directions: "Drive straight down Olaya Street until you get to Coca Cola Street. Turn right."
Simple, right? Well, there is no "Coca Cola Street." But some people call it that because it once had a Coca Cola plant on the street. Similarly, Faye was told to "go to the circle where the coffee pot used to be." Which circle without a coffee pot would that be?
Faye notes that Domino's Pizza has arrived in Riyadh, and offers her sympathy to the delivery guys in training.
David Clark Scott