Twice a day, Zakiya Hamid checks futilely to see if there's a dial tone on her telephone. Civil servant Adnan Abdul-Kabir rides his son's bike to work. Bus fares have skyrocketed 25-fold.
All show the continuing chaos in communications and transportation wreaked by the intensive allied bombing campaign against Iraq in the gulf war.Highways, bridges, communications centers and refineries were hit in the allies' effort to cripple the infrastructure underpinning President Saddam Hussein's war effort.
"I can't understand what our telephones had to do with the liberation of Kuwait. They could have done the job without wrecking these centers," said Hamid, a retired teacher.
The allies bombed 10 of the 21 telephone exchange centers in Baghdad during the war, including two that served as the nation's main communications centers. They also reduced to rubble scores of provincial telephone exchange systems, eventually putting the national network out of business.
"It was the only means which connected me with the outside world," Hamid said. "Now I am entirely cut off."
Restoring telephone service to the entire nation is expected to take years. The breakdown of the municipal and intercity transportation systems, coupled with the shortage of gasoline, also heightens Iraqis' sense of isolation.
"I have not been able to see my family in Mosul or reach them by telephone for weeks," said Talid Ali, a government employee who lives in Baghdad.
Bus drivers who buy scarce gasoline on the black market for up to $96 a gallon charge $150 to $180 for the trip to Mosul, 270 miles north of Baghdad.
That fare was only $6 before the war started Jan. 17.
The government has said that, beginning Sunday, every 20 days it will provide each motorist with eight gallons of gasoline for private cars and 20 gallons for minibuses at the government-controlled price of 27 cents.
Large buses will receive 32 gallons.
Many Iraqis now use bicycles for short trips and commuting. A bicycle with a can of kerosene or a shopping basket full of food has become a common sight.
"It is my son's bicycle, but I now use it for shopping and to go to my job," said Abdul-Kadir.
"It's healthy, it's cheap and and it's always available."
But even bicycles are in short supply, and some of Abdul-Kadir's colleagues have to get up as early as 5 a.m. to get one of the jammed buses to work.
Most civil servants stopped going to work when the air war began, but the government recently issued a return-to-work order.