Sunday, May 18, 2008

Certified Reverse-parking specialist!

After several classes at Emirates Driving Company in Abu Dhabi, I finally got the chance to appear for their 'yard test' (also known as "Reverse-Parking" test). I passed the test.

The test essentially consists of two parts: a '90-degree' parking and a 'side-parking'.

In the 90-degree parking you need to reverse the test car into a parking space perpendicular to the initial position of the car and then exit the parking space and get back to the initial position on the road.

In the side-parking, you need to reverse the car into a parking space parallel to the road and then take the car out to the initial position.

The rules are simple - (a) no moving forward while parking - you're allowed to move in reverse only. (b) No part of the car (including tyres) is allowed to touch the kerbstone, traffic cones or any other object.

The cars used in the test are EDC's orange-and-white Nissan Sunny cars. The examiner stands outside and does not sit with you in the car.

After passing the test, you are given a report by the examiner indicating that you passed, which you are supposed to take to the Traffc (muroor) counter inside EDC. They then give you a 'green card' with your photo on it and a test appointment for your 'road test' at the Traffic Dept. (Muroor). They also give you a 'certificate' of 'course completion'.

There is a long wait between the yard test and the road test.

See Part 4: The Road Test

Learning how to drive - the EDC way

See Part 1: Getting a driving license at Abu Dhabi

At Emirates Driving School, first you need to sign up for a PEP test (Dhs. 50). On the day of PEP test, one of the EDC examiners (who, by the way, are very friendly and well-mannered people) will ask you to drive a car and he will sit beside you. You will be driving inside the EDC compound, where there are traffic lights, roundabouts, etc. He will ask you to do a side-parking as well. In the end he hands out a sheet, which specifies what level of additional training you require.

There are 5 levels: Area 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The examiner will assign you to one of these training programs depending on your skill level.

You then pay the fee and register for the training. Training doesnt come cheap. Make sure you have a budget allocated for this course. The lower the Area number, the more you gotta pay (and the more time you will spend learning). EDC runs almost 24hours a day, you can even book a class at 1:00 AM. Well, quite often you don't have any other choice because it seems they are always over-booked. :-)

Make sure you got the whole day to yourself when you go for registration, the queuing system is kind of slow (or may be they need more counters there). I once had to wait 2 hours to get to the counter. Try to register for all areas together so that you don't need to get back on that queue again.

Also make sure that you have cash with you or a credit card. They don't accept debit cards for unknown reasons (even though the cards will work on their terminals). They do have an ATM machine there, but it didn't work when I needed it.

Due to strategic location of EDC at Musaffah, a taxi from Abu Dhabi to EDC in Musaffah will cost anything between Dhs. 20-30, depending on your negotiation skills. To and fro would cost you approximately Dhs. 50. That's 50 Dhs for each visit (registration, class, whatever) so you better bring all the documents, cash, photos, etc whatever you need for registration process.

Make sure you bring copies of all the required documents because you the coin-operated copier machines are usually crowded, and you also need to have coins - which you don't get from the cafeteria, unless you buy something there that gives you enough coins in change :)

Here's a breakdown of what they teach in each Area:

- Area 1 & 2: Basics - I don't know what exactly, I've never been there.
- Area 3: 45-degree parking, 90-degree parking, Side Parking
- Area 4: Stopping on the Hill/bridge. Turning into another road.
- Area 5: Driving around the EDC compound, roundabouts, traffic lights, free right turn, all kinds of parking.

After completing all 5 areas:

- Simulator: You drive a virtual car. To my techie eye, you are actually driving a Windows XP machine with 6 Dell monitors, which has a steering, a gearbox, and a real car seat (with seatbelt) attached. The 3D is marvellous. It was an enjoyable experience.
-Refresh Parking (free of cost). They teach you the 'tricks' on how to pass the reverse-parking test.
-The Yard test (reverse-parking test)

Each Area has 2 classes in which the instructor sits with you in the car and a few classes where you are on your own, and the instructor talks to you via radio installed in the car (aka "tower"). The "tower" cars have a strange box-like thing with flashing lights mounted on the roof and can move at a max speed of 20km/hr. The cars are all Nissan Sunny or Ford.

The ones who have been driving for years in the real world, and then sadly failed the Muroor test, may find it annoying at times to drive slowly inside EDC, with the instructor giving you a terse warning whenever you increase your speed unknowingly.

Bottom line, the training is really good - the instructors are great. The facilities are great, especially the driving simulators.

Hope this is useful, please post a comment!

Part 3-The Yard Test (aka Reverse-Parking test)!

Getting a driving license in Abu Dhabi

If you have a driving license from one of the listed countries like GCC countries, USA and UK, you can directly get a UAE license without further ado - but ONLY if you are also a CITIZEN of one of these countries.

What this means is that an Indian citizen like me, who has a Bahraini driving license (a GCC country), cannot get a driving license straight away - while a Bahraini citizen with the same license can get a UAE license straight away. Kind of ironical, but that's the way it is. Maybe the roads here can make out what passport you hold, so its not safe for you to drive on them if your home country is not the country that issued your driver's license. :-)

Well, rules are rules. So you need to follow them.

If you have a driving license from another country (or if you are not a citizen of one of the privileged countries), you are allowed to appear for a road test straight away after undergoing mandatory 'theory classes' worth Dhs 780 at Emirates Driving Company (EDC) in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi. Before registering for the classes, you need to spend a few hundred dirhams to "open a file" at the Traffic dept, get an eye test, etc. This can be done at EDC or at the Traffic dept.

Once you complete the 4-day theory class, you need to appear for an online exam at EDC and you need to pass the test to get a 'course completion certificate'.

After that you pay 50 Dhs. to get an appointment for a driving test at the Traffic dept. (commonly known as Muroor). On the date of the test you pay Dhs. 40 rent for the car, and get on the car with 2-3 police officers. They are very strict and keep talking to you in a mix of Arabic and Urdu/English while you drive, which is kind of distracting. You basically need to take the car out of the Muroor compound through one gate and get it back in thru the other, but this involves getting on the road, and making a free right at a traffic light or two. The officer may even ask you to drive fast and overtake other cars.

Here are some things I learnt:
1. Dont panic no matter what the officer says. Be cool. (Yes, it is tough!)
2. If you've been driving automatic gear for the better part of your driving experience, apply for an auto gear license instead of manual gear. It really helps you save your time and money.
3. Look in the rear view mirror every 5 seconds for no reason. The guy sitting in the back seat is watching. Make sure you move your head towards the mirror to show him that you're actually looking at it.
4. Try not to overtake, unless the officer shouts at you to overtake. Be careful, and overtake only if its simple to do. Make sure you look in the rear mirror, left mirror, and out the window, again in a way that's evident to them that you're looking.

Unfortunately, I flunked my first attempt. So, off I went to EDC in Musaffah, where I registered for further training.

Part 2: The driving course at EDC

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

10 bad email habits

[This is a repost from my tech blog, Technically Speaking]


outlook-icon This is a list of ten bad email habits that I've come across. Take a look and see if you find yourself doing some or all of these.

If you're like me, and you can't stand the sight of ol' SMTP being abused, I've included some tips on how to teach the abuser a lesson :). This is just my list of email habits, feel free to add more by posting comments.

  1. Misusing the CC field - Type 1
    Some people think that if they CC somebody's boss on every email message requesting action, they can get a quicker response. For something that's really critical or important, this is good. But CCing the boss on every diminutive email request is just too much. Too many such "CC" e-mails to the sender's manager is annoying for the manager too, and the manager might eventually stop reading emails from you (or even worse, administer a quick issue of the DEL key) every time you send a message. Your email eventually loses importance might get ignored even when it really is urgent. In the IT world, we can even see users doing this for things as trivial as getting access to a shared folder on the file server.

    What can I do?
    If you are the recipient, do not give the sender an impression that you are expediting on the sender's low-priority request just because your boss is CC'd on it. Give priority to those other low-priority requests that have been directly sent to you by others and action them first (even if they came after the abuser's email). If you can afford to do it, action this particular email request at the end of the day. When you reply to this sender, do not CC your boss.
  2. Misusing the CC field - Type 2
    And there are some other senders, who mark a CC to every son of Adam whenever they send an email message. If the motive of the email is to advertise about an achievement of the sender (often in a subtle way), this is perhaps done to show the world that the sender is worth his salary. If the motive of the email is to point out a fault concerning one of the recipients, then this most likely shows arrogance on part of the sender.

    What can I do?
    If the motive of the email is to communicate something which does not directly concern you - it is best to ignore it - if you can't take it any longer, pick up the phone, and ask the sender nicely to stop marking you on such emails. If several of the recipients do the same thing, the sender will gradually come to terms with the idea. If the motive of the email is genuine and if you need to respond to it, make sure you remove all the unnecessary recipients after hitting 'Reply to all'. This will reduce the number of recipients in the remaining part of the thread, and most likely prove a point to the sender.
  3. BCC
    The BCC field is a mistake. It shouldn't have been there in the first place.
    Users, be aware that your email administrator can and will be able to see whom you are marking on BCC.
  4. Responding when you are angry/frustrated
    This can make things very ugly. There is no worse feeling than wishing that you had never sent an email - two hours later. Think twice before typing an email. This is going to be a permanent record in the pages of history. Think of email like a gun. Once you pull the trigger (hit Send), there is no turning back.

    What can I do?
    Do not hit 'Reply' as soon as you finish reading a provocative e-mail. Sit back, relax, take a deep breath and reply later when you are 'yourself' again.
  5. Using email instead of the phone
    Using the phone for minor things can be faster than sending an email. Some people tend to think that sending an email increases the priority of the matter. However, in the real world, people are not always glued to their Outlook and may not (or choose not to) see your message till you call them :).

    What can I do?
    Accept the fact that email is not a replacement for the telephone. Period.
  6. Read receipts
    A read receipt is a cool feature designed with a purpose - it tells the sender when and if you have read the message. So, use it! Some people (usually managers) do not like to send read receipts when they receive email. The justification might be "who is this guy to ask me if read my email?!". On the other hand, some people configure Outlook to always ask for a read receipt on every email they send. That's a terrible waste of a good email feature.

    What can I do?
    Respond positively to all read receipts. Avoid configuring Outlook to automatically request read receipts for every email you send. It is annoying!
  7. Overdoing the Out-of-Office reply
    Out-of-Office reply messages are really cool too. They let the sender know that you're not in town so they need not expect an immediate reply. It can also be used to direct the sender to contact someone else. However, some people use the Out-of-Office to write essays to explain at great lengths what they are up to and what's missing in the organization because they are gone. I guess this is done by some users to show the boss (and everyone else) that they are taking care of a lot of responsibilities - the work of four men, etc. Oh please!

    Example of a good Out-of-Office message:

    Dear Sender,

    I will be out of office from May 27th, 2008 to June 26, 2008 and I will be having limited access to my email during this period. For any urgent matters, please contact Mr. Humpty Dumpty on 050-123-456 or email him on

    Yankee Doodle

    Example of a bad Out-of-Office message:

    Dear Sender,

    I will be on vacation at a beach resort in Hawaii from May 27th, 2008 to June 26, 2008. I will be having limited access to my email during this period.
    Please contact the following people during my absence:

    For matters concerning cabbage and cauliflower, please contact Jack Thompson.
    For reporting rotten cauliflower, please contact Charlie Brown.
    For issues related to onions and garlic, please contact John Smith.
    For issues related to onions without leaves, please contact Charlie Brown.
    For issues related to onion skin, please contact Jack Thompson.
    For anything related to vegetables, please contact John Smith.
    For queries related to legumes, please contact Charlie Brown.
    Anything else related to food that grows on plants, please contact Jack Thompson

    Show-Off Jones

    What is this? An IVR system? The sender could have also added one more line - "If you are confused, wait till I come back, because I'm THE MAN".
  8. Empty Meeting Requests
    If you send a meeting request, you are requesting time from other people - which is valuable. Make sure you have a darn good reason for throwing a meeting and mention it in your request. Write a brief note on the meeting - use the OARRs rule: Objective, Agenda, Roles and Responsibilities. There's nothing more ridiculous than receiving an empty meeting request and you end up reaching the venue wondering what the whole meeting is about. And when you reach there, you find other attendees in your very same, clueless, sorry situation.
  9. Using crazy shortcuts and too many smileys
    Using abbreviations like ASAP, FYI, FYA are well-accepted and good. Avoid using words like 'coz', 'bcz', 'pls', 'thx', 'thnx', 'LOL', etc. These might be good to use in a chat session, but not in a formal email message. Also make sure your email is well-punctuated and easy to read. Do not use more than one smiley per formal message. Read your mail once to see if it makes sense and run a spell check before hitting 'Send'.
  10. Sending chain mail
    Sending a few impressive emails is good and keeps cheer in the workplace. It also helps build conversation at the water cooler and in the coffee room. But please don't overdo it. Do not keep sending every trash that you receive from the internet - especially the ones that ask you to 'send this message to 500 people in 3 days otherwise your momma's gonna die'.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you have come across more email habits by posting a message below.