Sunday, March 24, 2013
From my UAE Journal: Nov 3, 2012
Actual view from behind the bush....
I hid behind a bush tonight on a busy Al Ain roundabout. I hid behind a bush dressed as a Ramones groupie while my three friends (dressed as Marge Simpson, the Devil, and The Joker) fended off carloads of Emirati men, who thought we were prostitutes and kept hooting and yelling at us, pulling up alongside trying their dead level damnedest to procure our services. I guess they thought my friend's eighteen year old son (The Joker) was our pimp.
The Devil kept telling me to come out from behind the bush, pissed off for some reason that I was hiding behind the bush. The Joker was trying to protect us from all the harassing Emirati young men, although at one point he did join me behind the bush in an attempt at self preservation. Marge Simpson was pretty quiet and had this stark "WTF?" look on her face the entire time. I stayed behind the bush knowing that on Animal Planet the animal that hides is most often the one that doesn't get killed.
What led to a Ramones groupie, the Devil, Marge Simpson, and The Joker standing on a busy roundabout in the UAE at 2:30 am?
I'm glad you asked.
The night started like this:
We all went to a Halloween party on top of Jebel Hafeet, the mountain in Al Ain. I danced to Michael Jackson's "Thriller", did the electric slide, watched Marge Simpson tie for best Halloween costume of the night (a guy in drag shared the honor), and had a tableful of Emirati men ask to have their picture taken with me. I swear, I am starting to know how Mickey Mouse feels. I have had so many people in this country ask to have their picture taken with me, and it's not because I'm that cute or anything. I'm still trying to figure it out, so don't ask for my theories right now.
One of my "fans". This guy relayed his wish to have his photo taken with me via another teacher. I agreed, posed, then went back to my little table with MY friends.
Around 1:00 a.m, after waiting around for 45 minutes in the hotel lobby, we realized that there were no taxis available, as stated in the party flyer. The shuttle driver finally appeared, but he could barely speak English. This poor man ended up driving eight Westerners down the mountain in hopes of locating a taxi at the bottom of said mountain.
Two of the Westerners, a man and a woman, were pretty well shitfaced, I believe. They became engrossed in a long conversation about how men don't understand women, and this led to an extended explanation regarding ordering a cheeseburger as an analogy for the battle of the sexes..
Drunk man in shuttle:
QUESTION: Woman wants to know if her man wants a cheeseburger from Burger King or McDonald's.
ANSWER: "I don't care where you get it. I just want a cheeseburger"
QUESTION: Woman wants to know what her man wants on his cheeseburger.
ANSWER: "Just a cheeseburger. I don't give a shit what's on it".
If a man offers to get woman a cheeseburger, she insists on it being "Medium well, no onions, Heinz ketchup, one squirt of mustard, pickles on the side, toasted bun". Oh, and she only likes Hardees cheeseburgers, which means the man has to drive fifteen miles past both the Burger King AND the McDonald's.
We are riding in this shuttle down a curvy mountain road, and we only want to go to the bottom of the mountain. But no taxis. The Devil gets on her cell phone and informs us that her new “friend” has agreed to meet us and give us a lift home. Said Devil is a bit smitten with this new friend, is my assumption. But who knows? After all, who can account for youth or explain them?
Off we go careening to "the bottom of the mountain". Only problem is that the shuttle driver can't tell us WHERE the bottom of the mountain is and we go past it. I realize too late that "the bottom of the mountain" was actually a parking lot we passed, filled with a cars and a bunch of local men dancing in a circle.
I didn't think the parking lot was a good place to try our taxi luck anyway. I mean the dancing-in-a-circle men looked suspiciously like they were performing a sacrificial dance, and I have seen what they do to goats in this country.....
The shuttle driver didn't understand my question, "Is there another place for us to get a taxi?". Before I knew it we were coming up on roundabouts, which meant we were way past "the bottom of the mountain", but still miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) away from our apartments. The Devil phoned her friend again, and I guess he told her to get off the shuttle as soon as possible at the next roundabout because that is exactly what she began saying we should do. The driver insisted he could take us home, but the Devil instructed the shuttle driver to pull over and let us out. The driver seemed way perplexed by us wanting to leave the van, and kept saying, "I take home. I take home".
The rest of the passengers, even the shitfaced ones, were looking at us as if we had lost our brains back at the party while we struggled to extradite ourselves from the shuttle. I exited simply because I couldn't just leave three people dressed as fictional characters standing on the side of a road. I was, after all, the eldest. And at least MY Halloween character had some basis in reality. I hesitated for a split second at what I was about to do. My brain started screaming, “Are you fucking crazy? Get back on the shuttle!”.
The Devil saw my hesitation and she insisted I get back in the shuttle because she could tell, "You don't feel comfortable with this". Hell no, I didn't feel comfortable with it, but I also didn’t feel comfortable getting back on the shuttle, waving bye-bye to my three friends, and all three being thrown into a dark UAE jail or (probably better) being forced into a car, driven out into the desert, raped, and butchered. Now how in the hell I was supposed to prevent this scenario by JOINING them is something that never occurred to me.
I watched the shuttle pull out into traffic and leave. It took all I could not to kneel down and start banging my head on the pavement while chanting, "Stupid.. stupid". The Devil couldn't tell us how long it might take for her friend to arrive, so we stood there on a semi-vegetated roundabout area waiting. Cars passed and Emirati young men started whooping at us. I told my compatriots-in-stupidity, "Great, they think we're hookers and The Joker is our pimp". One car load drove by and hollered out, "Happy Halloween, motherfuckers!". They must have been trying out a new word they learned. Allah only understands cuss words if they are uttered in Arabic, I guess, so English cuss words don't count. I have to admit though: their pronunciation was flawless.
Car after car pulled up and offered us rides. All the cars contained young men who leered and practically salivated as if we were the featured meat of the day in a butcher shop display window. Even The Joker's presence didn't dissuade them. One car load pulled over, and I swear there were about six guys in the backseat and five in the front. It looked like a loaded clown car. The Joker put himself physically between us and the vehicle, bless him. I looked at the car again and surmised that another human being couldn't have squeezed into that car under any circumstances.
The Emirati young men in the car whooped and asked, "You need ride? Get in". (Yeah, Einstein, where do you propose we sit?). Then they started heckling, "You have green card? Green card, eh? Green card?", and they all high fived each other like they had uttered the funniest line in the entire existence of mankind. I snapped and started yelling, "I have a purple card and a red one and a yellow one and an orange one. I have them all!". This was the wrong thing to do, kind of like feeding trolls on CNN.com, and I knew damn well that what I should have done was just ignore them.. But my mouth overrides my brain sometimes and my temper gets the best of me. The Emirati "boys” continued to heckle us and make lewd comments. They finally, thankfully, drove away, bored with their new found cat toys.
That's when I tromped off towards the bushes.
I knew that my hiding in the bushes was not only in my best interests, but in my friends' best interests. I knew if another car pulled up I wouldn't be able to hold my tongue and I could possibly get us in a whole shitload of trouble. I know me.
The Devil kept yelling at me to come out from behind the bush. I told her, "At fifty years of age, I'm too old to be mistaken for a prostitute!". She asked two more times, but I refused to budge. I could tell she was angry at my having abandoned everyone, but what she really didn't understand was the huge favor I was actually doing for her and my other two friends. I could have gotten us killed.
Carload after carload of young men kept stopping, the occupants making comments that I tried not to hear. I peeked out one time and saw the Devil awash in a range of emotions that visibly played over her face that shifted from pissed to worried to hopeful. Marge still looked like she had been hit in the face with the "WTF" baseball bat. The Joker stood planted firmly between Marge and the Devil trying to make himself a shield between them and the road.
I heard the Devil talking and I peeked around the bush again. She was on her cell phone trying to give directions to where we were. I guess she had phoned her friend to find out where he was. I heard her say that we were on a roundabout that had statues of goats in the middle. I heard this and shouted out, "Gazelles! They're Gazelles", but I think the bush muffled my voice and she didn't hear me, or if she heard me, she ignored me.
Thirty grueling minutes, and many more leering carloads of men later, the friend finally showed up. The Devil called out to me and I exited my spot from behind the bush. I followed Marge and got into the back seat with her and The Joker. The Devil got in the front passenger seat and then she introduced us to her friend. He pulled onto the road, the CD player blasting Arabic rap music, that finally settled into Linkin Park's "Numb".
And that song title said everything I felt. The entire way home I didn't say much. The music was too loud for conversation to be meaningful anyway, and Marge's "WTF" confusion was finally seeping into my brain.
We dropped Marge and The Joker off first. Five minutes later we arrived at my apartment building. I mumbled a hurried “Thanks” to the friend and told him that it had been a pleasure meeting him. Hell, I can't even tell you what he looked like now. I told the Devil to "have a good time" and then I rushed into the lobby where I almost threw myself upon the hard tiled floor in a gesture of thankfulness and relief.
I'm too old to be hiding behind a bush dressed as a Ramones groupie .
I hereby swear and vow that I will never again go against what my fifty years of common sense tells me to do or not do ever again.
I hereby swear and vow that I will not go out partying with anyone under the age of forty again, unless their parents are also present.
I hereby swear and vow that I will never again try and protect someone from their own decisions, or offer a show of solidarity with anyone who I believe is behaving naively and irresponsibility.
It's all about survival. Mine. Fuck everyone else.
Posted by Liti