At a busy four-way intersection in the northwestern part of Kabul, traffic is stuck. There is no traffic signal, and cars are threaded through one another like a woven rug.
A passenger car is in front of our taxi. The driver, with two children in the car, has managed to wedge into position, perpendicularly blocking three rows of cars. On the other side of his car are vehicles headed in the direction he came from, and another line of cars is trying to cross in front of his. The driver with the children cannot move anywhere.
Soon, an angry man approaches on foot, placing his hands on the hood of the family vehicle and shouting at the driver. The man walks from the hood to the driver’s side window and back again, shouting. Now the driver cannot move his car forward without hitting the man. He absorbs the verbal abuse without gesticulating or yelling back.
Twice a traffic police officer walks by, trying to untangle the knot of traffic. The angry man continues to yell in front of the car. Meanwhile, two other drivers step out of their cars and start yelling at the man though they don’t approach closer.
Eventually, the angry man walks away, and the traffic knot loosens. The family car manages to clear the intersection, and our taxi finally turns left.
I reflect afterwards how this flare-up is representative of the underlying tensions in Kabul after decades of war, where any situation or statement may soon explode in anger. A precarious balance exists between the…