Ups & Downs

* This post is in Arabic and English (Arangleezi)

I just returned from a European Embassy to apply for a visit visa. Of course my papers were missing some documents that these people won’t process the visa without, including, bala zoghra, Ikhraj 2eid 3a2ili bil frinsewi. Which you have the freedom to send later, (as in, it doesn’t REALLY matter whether you send the family civil status record in French or not) because they love to be a pain in the ass and exercise their powers.

I chose not to drive to the Embassy because Parking in Beirut is a pain in the ass on its own. And driving is yet another factor to help your blood pressure shoot up, so, no thank you. I said I will take the Service (Collective Cab). Again! Anyway, I hailed a service and said, Hamra. He said no. I hailed another one so I tried Bristol. He said no. I hailed a third one and said Hamra or Bristol. This one said YES! So I rode with him and it was a very smooth drive alhamdulillah. BUT, the service driver has to be a pain in the butt and remind you of where you live. Before he even gets to the Central Bank of Masraf Lobnan he says, “yalla here is Hamra wherever you can get out will be excellent.” ((As in, the sooner you fals3i, the better)). Now I was wearing high heels to impress the embassy (next time I’m going in flip flops), so I didn’t want to walk Hamra street all the way in those shoes. I didn’t say anything.

– Ya ukhti you are very lucky. I never drive this service.

I was thinking, “Oh, great. It is probably his brother’s car or something”.

– I drive it as taxi only. (No offense but it’s an old poor Japanese car)

– “shu ana jbart jiddak ttali3ni mnil balad lahon service?” (In my head of course), out of my head I am only agreeing with a mild nod.

– Sort 7atit benzeen min honeek la hon 10,000 lira. Shu bya3mlo hawdil 2000? (I paid him to try to shut him up)

– “Mfakkarni mastooli shaklak. I drive and it takes 765 LL to get here from there without traffic.” (In my head)

– Allah ykhallisna min hal 3eeshil khara.

– I will get down here, please. (This time I said it out loud)

He was very happy and he let me down. I was still before Costa Coffee but I figured I will walk a bit and smell some Beiruti air with gasoline and pollution than stay with this guy and have to listen to his curses and reminders how shitty his life is. Because he is the only one -I am very sure- who is suffering from this 3eeshi in our civilized country.

What did I do tayyeb to piss you off like that because I paid 2000 LL to get from A to B? Or now I am thinking, maybe he thought I will pay him more because I was wearing high heels. Sniff sniff. I’ll just put on my sneakers now and go down to Younes. Coffee, calm music, and 30 scenes to write will be a great medicine for these dark times. But for now, Chamishi Shalom 🙂

Another service episode These are collective taxis in…

Another service episode. (These are collective taxis in Beirut)
Since forever, everybody tells me NOT to pay the cab driver until I get very close to my destination, otherwise they might just take me on a tour of the whole city. I know I probably should get one, but not in a service, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I usually abide by the advice. And so far, none of the cabs has ever took me on a long tour. So, today, I thought I’ll just give the guy his 5,000 as soon as I got in near Sodeco. It was the first stupid thing I
did in his car, but it was probably the least stupid thing.
I hand the guy his money, and take back my change and he starts the interrogation.
Driver: “You’re going to Hamra, to the University?”
N: “Yeah, near the university.”
D: “But did you go to university?”
N: (I probably shouldn’t tell him I TEACH at one) “Yes. I graduated!”
D: “Wow, mashallah. God Bless. How old are you? 18? 20? 18?” (Yeah. Right. You perv.)

Let me quickly give a personal card about myself. I am 30 years old, single (I was engaged once to a wonderful man), I have no kids, and I’m not particularly interested in the Eastern mentality when it comes to marriage.”

Back to the cab, the guy waits for an answer. I cleared my throat. What can I tell him.
N: “I am THIRTY.”
D: “Thirty! Whoa! God bless. You look eighteen. Raise your eyeglasses let me see.” (asshole)

Now this is a man who’s in his fifties, as old as my mother possibly. So, I lift my eyeglasses just a bit.
D: “Are you married?”

WHAT?! What the heck is wrong with this man. AND what should I tell him. If I tell him that I am single he’s probably gonna take my Dad’s number and ask for my hand in marriage. So, I decide to practice my craft… without knowing it’s gonna lead me to horrible consequences. And I start crafting a story.
N: “Yes. I am. Thank God.”

I suddenly remember a story that my aunt once told me about a woman who told a cab driver she was married and then got raped coz he didn’t want to rape a virgin. But it was now too late to “undo”. I just hope that this man isn’t really looking for a similar weird thing. But no, he just wanted to talk it seems. Coz,
D: “What’s your husband’s family name?”
N: “Ermmm. He’s not from here. He’s Syrian.”
D: “SYRIAN! SYRIAN! Why did you have to marry a Syrian, my daughter? Are there not enough good Lebanese men here?”
N: “He’s a good man.”
D: “You love him. HA! That’s it. You love him. Do you love him?”
N: “Yeah. Thank God.”
D: “And does he love you? He better do. A Syrian!”

I look out of the window and I see two women waiting for a cab. I pray to God that they happen to be on our way, and the man picks them up. Thank goodness. They are going to Noueiri. I am an idiot. I don’t know where is Noueiri, but it seems -from its name- that it is not somewhere between Sodeco and Hamra. I take a breather whilst the women get to where they want and as soon as they’re out,
D: “Do you have any kids?”

I didn’t have time to plan this answer so it came out automatically.
N: “No.”
D: “Well, you said you’re 30. You must be a new bride then, eh? How long you been married?”

I was engaged once in 2003. I count the years. My second and fatal error.
N: “Eight years.”
D: “EIGHT YEARS? NO KIDS?! What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with you? With him?”
N: “No, nothing is wrong with either of us.”
D: “How old is your husband?”
N: “37.” I thought it’d be cool for my imaginary husband to be 37. That’s a nice number. And the driver agreed.
D: “That’s a good age difference. What does he do?”
N: “He’s an Engineer.”
D: “Good. Good. Do you have a house in Beirut or a rental?”
N: “No. A rental.”
D: “Where?”

Heavenly creatures. Please get me rid of this man. Bloody hell.
N: “In Khaldeh.” (outside Beirut)
D: “Good.” (Are you kidding me?) “Do you commute every day? Back and forth?”
N: “Yeah. Mostly. Sometimes we stay in Beirut.”
D: “At your mother’s house!”
N: “Yep.”
D: “Is there a place for him to sleep at your mother’s house?” (What do you mean, loco?)
N: “Yes. Of course.”
D: “Did you see a doctor for the kids issue?”
N: “Yeah we’re trying.” Shit.
D: “What did she say?”
N: “She said there’s nothing wrong we just shouldn’t stress ourselves about it.”
D: “Yes, she’s right. My sister-in-law didn’t conceive for TEN YEARS. I was taking her to the doctor by the end of them.” (Great) “You know what he said? He said she was….” (Pretty explicit stuff). “You need to be sure that you’re not facing any of these problems, and doing it right, and doing it at the right time of month. You shouldn’t be nervous like your doctor said. That way it’ll happen. Excuse me for being so explicit but these are medical issues. You seem like a good woman and I want to help you.”

Right. I’m wondering if the guy is jerking off by now or not yet. I was starting to get sick and scared.
N: “It is all as Allah wants.”

A woman stops him. She wants to go to Bshara El Khoury. I am almost sure that’s almost where I was when I first got in but I don’t say a word. I paid the man 5-effing-thousand liras to get me from Sodeco to Hamra. How hard can that be? I am pissed off. The woman gets in. He drives her. She gets out.
D: “My brother now has five kids. The same one who didn’t have children for ten years. Now has five. He went to this famous doctor, try to remember with me, what’s his name. He was a minister of health at one point…er..” I am the last person you can ask about ministers’ names, man. Do I look like I care who’s the minister of shit?
D: “Anyway, his office is on our way. I’ll actually drop you there now.”
N: “I will let my Mom know about it and take an appointment.”
D: “You know you said you’re 37. You should be taking charge of your own life now. You can’t still depend on your parents. Mom this, Dad that.”
N: “My husband is 37. I am 30.” That was actually funny. I am laughing about it now, at least.
D: “Right. And you know what? You must do it fast. Drag your husband around. Men don’t care about having children. Women do.” Yeah, well, not THIS one. “And you know what? If you don’t get pregnant fast, his mother will start bugging you AND him. How is she with you? Does she like you?”
N: “Yes we’re pretty much on good terms. She’s a good woman.”
D: “Well, that won’t matter now that he’s 37. She’s gonna tell him to marry a local girl. Do his parents live here?”
N: “No. In Damascus.” (I hope he doesn’t ask me where coz I know the Masjid Al Omawi and Souk Al Hameediyyi in Damascus and that’s about it)
D: “Do you visit them?”
N: “Not now. No. But we usually do, of course.”
D: “Yeah. That’s good. Have a fun weekend in Damascus. Well, his mom is gonna bug him, “37 years, aakhidli yaha Libaniyyeh, shu nafa3et ma3aak?” He’s damn good with the Syrian accent. And I already hate him for making fun of Syrians. Two beloved people in my life are Syrian.
N: “She wouldn’t do that. He would never do that.”
D: “YOU think he’d never do that. But at a certain point it’ll happen. That’s the truth. If you don’t get pregnant. But you will, inshallah. God willing you will.”
N: “Inshallah.”
D: “Are you helping him with the expenses?”
N: “Yes. I teach.”
D: “Great. At school or privately?”
N: “At school.” (I HATE teaching at school)
D: “Which school?”
N: “Al Iman.” (That’s where my aunt teaches)
D: “Oh I know that school, it’s a good one.” Pffffffft. Yeah, right. “So you finish your work at what time?”
N: “Around 2.”
D: “And him?”
N: “at 4.30.”
D: “That’s good. You finish two hours earlier. That’s perfect timing. So by the time he gets home he finds his meal ready, right?” Hahahahaha. What is he my husband or my pet? Oh, he’s fictional. Never mind.
N: “Yes, most of the time.”
D: “Good. I could tell as soon as you got in to the car that you are a good woman. I was right! What’s your family name?”
N: “Itani.”
D: “Oh! THAT’s why. I AM A ITANI TOO! We’re the best.” F-You, asshole.

By this time I was praying he doesn’t ask me who’s my father or where our house is, coz coming up with a wrong answer could blow up my whole cover.
I can’t give him my father’s name by any means, and definitely not where we live.
D: “Ok, you see that building on the right? That’s where the doctor’s office is. You wanna go now?”
N: “No, but I got it.”
D: “Great. His name is XYZ. Will you remember that?”
N: “XYZ. Ok.”
D: “Ok, my daughter. Next time I pick you up I hope to see a child on your hand or a big belly in front of you.” Whaaaaaa??? But I have to be polite.
N: “Tislam. Inshallah.” (I so hope I won’t ever see you in my whole life again)

That was pretty much most of the conversation that took place. Of course the “medical issues” constituted MOST of what the guy lectured about. I so wished my camera was with me. Maybe I have to keep it with me all the time so I can make one helluva documentary when I come across another weirdo like that. Or when they come across weirdos like me. I am not sure 100% who was worse than who. Me for being such a -well- LIAR. Or him for being such a BLUNT man.

In the morning “service” (cab), the ra…

In the morning “service” (cab), the radio host announces that they will suspend taking song requests via email because the internet is down – and they called the person to come fix it.

In the evening “service” (cab), the passenger next to the driver is worried about appearing in court as the main witness in a murder trial.

In between, there is rain, man2ooshit jibneh (cheese pastry), two meetings, and a book.