When I started taking vans, even some of my more nationalistic Lebanese friends expressed shock.

“What?! Is it clean? Is it safe?”

I didn’t really know how to answer those questions, mainly because I’m confident it’s not really either...but that’s beside the point. The point is that vans cost one thousand, which is a staggering 50 percent less than the cost of a service. To all the future accountants and finance experts out there, back me up. That’s a good deal and you know it!

But wait, there’s more. Taking vans completely does away with the inconvenient haggling over service fares and the uncertainty of whether the driver will actually drop you off where you want to go. Vans are reliable, they drive the same routes and are always the same price.

When I first discovered the number 4 van that drives from Hamra to Bechara El Khoury and God knows where else, I almost had a heart attack and an orgasm, simultaneously. Never again would I have to argue with service drivers when I wanted to cross the city. Never again would I have to worry that the driver would visit Qoreitem, Raouche, and then take a tour of Clemenceau before dropping me at Achrafieh.

Okay, sure, vans sometimes require a bit of walking. They don’t go down every street and they run on certain routes; but the costs savings and absence of hassle make up the difference in my opinion. In fact, I’m probably saving myself several years’ worth of medical bills from service-induced-stress-related heart attacks in the future.

Sometimes, when I’m sitting enjoying my daily van ride, I like to think about all the thousands of Lebanese Lira I have been saving. For those of you disconnected from the streets, just one of those thousand lira notes still have a lot of power. You can buy Nescafe or zaatar ma3 khodra with that!

Sure, I’m probably risking my life each time I step into that vehicle. I mean, sometimes the door falls off and it’s happened once or twice that the van even broke down temporarily, but that's fine, just take it all in stride because as long as these guys have benzene in their tanks, they will guarantee to get you a lift to your destination.

And the best part is, they’ll do it quick: on the way they will be sure to cut off every driver on the highway, swerving sometimes just to ensure that they haven’t left anyone out. Whenever there is a pile up at an exit, you can bet they will drive around and cut straight to the front.

Really these vehicles are somehow magical, mystically changing shape and size to fit the traffic patterns; I swear they can create new lanes in any situation. Perhaps it was a packed four lane road a minute ago, but suddenly the van driver had started a fifth lane and is cruising right on by all those suckers sitting in taxis and air-conditioned sports cars.

They may lack in comfort and luxury, but taking the van provides you with speed and adventure. Just make sure you hold on tight if you’re sitting close to the door. It will probably open unexpectedly at least once during your trip.

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