Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cheap Labor

The problem with cheap labor is that although it is inexpensive initially, it comes at a much heftier price later on down the road. Here in Saudi, ALL of the labor is imported from other Third World Countries because “locals,” as I refer to them, believe it is beneath them to do anything considered in anyway remotely a menial task. [See this article: Proof.] So, the labor force we must deal with, although probably skilled to a degree – albeit much of it on-the-job training – is not skilled to the degree that is usually and actually required to solve a problem.

We have an outdoor faucet that is broken for the fourth time. Each time I simply dial the three-digit number for maintenance,
"202", and someone schedules the necessary electrical-plumber-air conditioning-carpenter maintenance man or men to come to our house and we pay nothing, monetarily, that is. This is a service that is included in our housing on the compound provided by the company my husband works for. Yesterday, when the faucet quit turning off, for the fourth time, I called and specifically requested that a plumber be sent to fix our problem and tried to be quite clear that the reason we need a plumber is because the irrigation team they keep sending to fix the same problem obviously isn’t fixing it. My conversation went something like this:

Me: Yes. Hello. I need you to send a plumber to our house. The outdoor faucet is broken, for the fourth time, and it will not shut off.

Person answering “202”: Yes, Madam, we will send irrigation.

Me: I don’t want irrigation to come – you’ve already sent them – several times, now – they aren’t taking care of the problem and all that is going to happen is that the same thing is going to happen all over again and I am going to have to call you for a fifth time.

Person answering “202”: Yes, Madam. It is no problem. We will send irrigation. They will be there at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.

Me: No. I need a plumber. And you want me to wait until tomorrow morning? So it is okay with you, then, if my water runs all afternoon and all night and floods my yard and the street.

Person answering “202”: Yes, Madam. It is no problem. That is the ‘on-lee ap-point-mant a-veil-abble.’

Me: Aarrrggggghhh!

The rest of the world is having near-drought conditions – the southeastern United States desperately need water – California has out-of-control wild fires destroying entire towns because it is so dry – and
people living in this country in Jeddah are going without – but because there is only “cheap labor” here, my outside faucet will be left running until “irrigation” comes to fix it because I can’t get a plumber. In the meantime, my back yard is turned into one big mud-hole which makes it impossible for me or my kids to enjoy. Perfect.

So, at nine o’clock this morning the irrigation guys – two of them – showed up, right on time, to fix my outdoor faucet. This, as I earlier mentioned, has been an on-going problem – they’ve been here four times now to fix the same thing. And each time they come they fix it the same way: I get a new faucet put on. It would seem to me, and I am not a skilled plumber so this is just a guess on my part, that the problem requires a solution just a tad more complex than simply replacing a faucet. This morning was no exception. As the young man turned all our water off – and likely other neighbors as well as the water main in the street has to be turned off – he showed me that he was going to replace the faucet. My conversation with one of the young men went something like this:

Me: You’ve got to be kidding!

Him: Yes, Madam. New faucet.

Me: But that obviously ISN’T the problem – this is my fifth faucet. You’ll be back in two weeks to fix it again. And each time it quits shutting off I have to go through this – as well as deal with a flooded back yard – and this is not acceptable.

Him: Yes, Madam. No problem.

Me: Good God, at least send someone who speaks and understands English!

And I stormed into the house and called “202” and demanded to speak to a supervisor when the person at “202” answered, “What is the problem, Madam?” to which I responded, “No. I don’t want to keep going through this, just get me a supervisor on the phone, and one who speaks and understands English.” But of course speaking to a supervisor is an impossibility – the supervisor being “a local” and thus he is no where near his office quite this early in the morning. Duh… “The supervisor is out of the office, Madam. What is the problem?” [I’m pretty sure that all of our calls are going through some call center in India; probably the same call center that Microsoft and Verizon are using.] So I rambled on about my problem and how it’s been happening every two weeks and how the wrong people are being sent to fix it and that even though they fix it temporarily they are not fixing it properly because it keeps happening and what I really need is a plumber – not irrigation – and that I need to discuss this with a supervisor and one who understands and speaks English, clearly. Meanwhile, all I can think of is that Farside cartoon where the man is talking to his dog and the dog is hearing “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” and I know I am getting nowhere but getting more and more frustrated by the minute. Finally, the “202” person promises to send a plumber to me this afternoon at three

So, at two forty-five, I lock the Kids in the house and am right there to open the back gate when the “plumbers” arrive at three o’clock. [It’s always more than one person – never less than two – often an entire group – all depends on what type of problem you are experiencing.] I open the gate and there are two young men holding their tool bags in their hands and guess what else they’re holding – a NEW FUCK!NG FAUCET!!!

I give up. Have to. Too much time and energy has already been wasted on the fact that water is running freely from my back yard – which floods – in to the street, cooling the pavement for no good reason – every couple of weeks when the faucet stops shutting off – and I don’t think I’m describing this correctly, because in actuality the faucet does turn – it just doesn’t seem to be able to shut the water off to prevent it from running. When this place dries up in a few years – after we’ve left – I’m just going to smile. Hey, not my fault that gallons upon gallons of one of your precious valuable resources was routinely squandered because you refuse to recruit and hire help at the cost required to accurately diagnose and resolve some maintenance issue.

There will be not a single tear shed by me when old men, women and children, and especially the
TITS are shriveling up and dying off from dehydration!!! Perhaps if the gazillion dollars this country reaps from the wealth of its oil were put to better use – such as teaching its citizens actual trades and skills instead of allowing them to become dependent on labor from other third world countries because doing some laborious task is so beneath them – I could muster up a bit of sympathy. As long as this country refuses to recognize that there are so many reasons why cheap labor isn’t cost-effective, I see absolutely no reason whatsoever to worry about the amount of water that the sand in my back yard consumes.

Friday, October 12, 2007


No, not what you’re thinking. Not women’s breasts. TITS as in terr0rists-in-training. I am surrounded by them. Little thugs! Yeah I know it’s the “holiday season” here, and this month of fasting and being up all night and asleep all day is about to come to an end – and everyone here will celebrate with big feasts of slaughtered goats and sheep – and be braggarts whilst doing so by hanging the skin [carcass?] of whatever poor little innocent four-legged-furry creature you selected for practicing your “slit it’s throat” skill on over your balcony or privacy fence. [That just soooo impresses us Westerners!] But really, did you have to shoot off your stupid little firecrackers all night? And did you have to start at six o’clock again this morning?!?

Furious. I am furious about it. A bunch of unruly, undisciplined, misbehaving little boys and their big teenage brothers thought it was just too much fun to stop. I didn’t call security last night. Was fine with it at nine, ten, eleven o’clock, and even midnight, when these little TITS continued with their shenanigans. What the thrill is – or was – is beyond me, but apparently the smell of sulfur and the little bang must be in some way exciting – we’re not talking fireworks, here, just those little blue and red firecrackers… But I am NOT fine with it at six in the morning – on what is “Sunday” here – Friday morning.

The worst part of all this is it scares my Kids half to death. The Boy can handle it – he just barks back – and he’s got a pretty big, deep bark [as Great Danes do] – although in actuality his bark is much, much worse than his bite, so to speak… The Baby [a standard Poodle] on the other hand, not her, she’s having nothing to do with the bangs that are going off regularly one after the other. Little tail goes down flat against her butt and she is running scared. She’s not been outside to do “business” since early last night – and this morning when I had her out – all it took was ONE of the TITS’ little “bangs” and she’s racing for the door – as if to tell me whatever it is that’s out there is NOT safe. [She’s right. These boys are NOT safe. These boys are all TITS! Mark my words.]

So, when the TITS started in again this morning – so damn early – with their amusement, I went out to the street to tell them to stop it – that it is too early in the morning for this – that people are sleeping – and it didn’t stop. The little TITS probably got quite a thrill of seeing a western woman who’s legs and arms were showing – but unfortunately my being dressed in bike shorts and a tank top only piqued their testosterone levels enough to make them want to shoot off more firecrackers outside – not go inside and masturbate furiously. [Damn. Next time I skip putting a bra on first! No. No. No. That would be asking for rape! You know, the “uncovered meat” and all…]

But because it was so early, I had no choice but to call Security. Security came right away – and I was right there – outside – to point them to the evidence [the blue paper remains – long after the little “gunsh0t” sound] and I was told by Security that they would take care of it. Silly me. I should know better. Of course the problem won’t be taken care of. The TITS who live here in “main camp” are the spawn of their daddy’s who are big-wigs and thus NOTHING can happen to them. Everyone knows this, and because the security guys don’t want to lose their jobs, nothing can or will be done to control the TITS. Can only hope that the problem will control itself – which of course means that some sort of “accident” needs to happen.

I know, here’s a really fun idea! Why don’t all of you TITS see if you can hold onto the firecrackers as they go off – don’t throw them – keep them between your fingers – or put them between your teeth – or even better – why don’t you put them where the sun will never shine!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fashion TV

I want my FTV… [not quite what Dire Straits had in mind when they did I Want My MTV, but the tune has been playing over and over in my head for the last two weeks, now… Stop. Just Make It Stop!]

I’ve never, ever watched a single
Fashion TV program. Not a one. No clue what the channel and it’s programming is even all about – but for the information quickly gleaned after doing a Google search and voila – it’s all about Fashion! Right now on our satellite channel line-up Fashion TV is missing. Missing as in… “Removed for Ramadan.” [It's the second listing from the bottom, Channel 557.]

Why on earth it would be taken off the air for an entire month – when there is so much more on TV that is soooo much more risqué – is a question to raise with someone that possesses a great deal more knowledge about Islam than I have. Surely it can’t be even half as “bad” as the dozens of p0rn0 channels we can get, here, can it?

In another couple of days – maybe after Eid* – I’m sure that all the channels will be back to regularly scheduled programming and I’ll be able to watch as much Fashion TV as I want to and will find out then what it is that I’ve been missing – but this will be an entry that goes at the very, very bottom of my list of things to do.

*Rather interesting that typing in Eid in Google produced this [note the third “result”]. Coincidence? Yeah. Sure it is.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Bracelet for the Holidays

From what I understand – and I am not a Muslim – it would seem that celebrating Ramadan is similar to any other holiday where one receives gifts. Yeah. Maybe not so much. But I do know that it is customary to receive gifts for the Eid holiday, which, thankfully – five more days – who’s counting – is right around the corner.

So this little girl goes to a shop with her Dad who wants to buy her a new bracelet. You know… the joy of giving and all… it is the “holiday” season here in Saudi Arabia it being Ramadan and all. You people in
Illinois know what I’m referring to – as do those of you in Michigan – and those of you anywhere near D.C. where the White House just hosted its annual Iftaar dinner. [Just charming. Ever hear of one of the Prince’s here in Saudi hosting an Easter or Christmas dinner? I think not. I’m all for the U.S. being “diverse” and whatever else it wants to be, but I am a very strong and avid supporter of the reciprocity thing and there is NO SUCH THING, here!] I digress…

The little seven-year-old girl was given assistance from a
salesman who while "trying on a bracelet" touched the little girl's hand. Ohmygosh. The horror. Thank goodness the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice just happened to be passing by and caught this lecherous pedophile before something worse could happen! A spokesman for the Commission “cited other cases in the past when much younger girls had been molested.” Hmmm. Perhaps the authorities are searching for Chester Stiles in the wrong country.

On the bright side for this salesman – and we are left to presume that he must have been a “local” or his nationality, along with a color photograph of him and his full name, would have been published – much like the MSN plays “
guess the party affiliation” – at least he has been released and will not experience the severe misfortune of receiving some 7000 lashes for his perceived crime.

Let this serve as a dire warning to parents everywhere that you “can help fit bracelets to their children without the assistance of ‘strangers.’”
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