x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A journey toward fun

The first time you go on a trip with a friend it's a huge risk because when you utter the words, "Why not? It'll be fun," you possess none of the information necessary to make that judgement.

The first time you go on a trip with a friend it's a huge risk because when you utter the words, "Why not? It'll be fun," you possess none of the information necessary to make that judgement.

That information surfaces just after the point when it would be really useful: before you've arrived but after you've committed to going.

This was the situation last weekend when a friend invited me to join her on a trip to Dibba. "Why not?" I said. "It'll be fun."

Viewed objectively, initial signs were not good. Being the only one with both car and licence, she was driving. Looking back, it's amazing we made it out of the car-park. You try wrangling two suitcases, two laptops (why did we bring them?) and two handbags into one tiny car - its boot already brimful with undeposited recycling.

Twenty minutes later, wedged into our seats, we were ready to go. Then my travelling companion remembered she'd forgotten the Omani car insurance. And the music for the journey.

Take Two. Engine on: tank empty. We drove to the petrol station on sheer willpower, where a long wait at the pump was compounded by my dithering when tasked to buy snacks.

An hour after our first attempt to leave, we were actually farther from our destination than if we had stayed put. Still, we were on the road. This would be fun.

Then, I was handed the map.

This is why the passenger seat is the most dangerous in any car. Statisticians claim it's because of the risk of serious injury or fatality. I know better. It's because sitting there makes you the navigator. I have to make an admission here. Well into my 20s, I still thought the big blue lines on maps (you know, the ones with junctions and slip-roads - the motorways) were rivers. Maps are not my friends. This one was no exception.

Although, this wasn't really a map. It was a "map-kerchief." A piece of cloth, that defied any attempt to prop it up so the fuzzy imprint of the region might be read.

We never stood a chance. We wheeled around roundabouts, took random exits, asked bemused pedestrians and children on bicycles for directions. At every (wrong) turn I confidently asserted that this road, "feels like it's really going somewhere", even after we'd driven down one that had literally gone nowhere - running out at a superfluous "Stop" sign.

Objectively, then, initial signs were not good. But that's the beauty of these things. They're utterly subjective. What might infuriate many delighted us.

Four and half hours into our two-hour journey we had nearly reached our destination. We had chatted and laughed non-stop. The information was all there. This was going to be fun. And it was.