Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm Staying Home Until October 4th

Well, well, well... Just in case anyone thought I was being a tad snarky when I said that Saudis do not wait in queues - that waiting one's turn in a line is something that other people do, but not Saudis - read this article.

Not that I needed any proof for myself - I've seen it with my own eyes - I've personally experienced it, as well: Once at Zamil's where I was getting some fabric and being served, after waiting "my turn," a Saudi woman covered head-to-toe in black pushed herself right in front of me and all but demanded that the guy cutting my fabric cut hers. Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! Not so fast, lady! Just because I am clearly a Western woman - with only my body covered in a black bag and my blonde hair exposed - doesn't give you the right to dismiss that I am right here! The young man [imported help] would have bowed to her demand had I not have spoken up. Yes, it was late in the morning and the shop was getting ready to close for the mid-day prayer - and it remains closed until late afternoon - but too bad. I was here first, I was being waited on, and you ARE going to wait. Either get your butt out of bed earlier to get here sooner, or come back later when the shop reopens.

Then, once at our Commissary, in the "fast" lane - 6 items or less - there were quite a few of us in line - Westerners and Saudis - when some man in his thobe and gutra went straight to the front of the line and demanded a pack of cigarettes. Out of the six or eight of us in line - I was the only one who spoke out and said, "No. We are all waiting our turn. You go to the back and wait for yours." The man was stunned. Apparently no one had ever challenged him like that before in his life, but he very sullenly put his head down and went to the back of the line. [See? That wasn't so hard, now, was it? Waiting in the queue for YOUR turn?]

It happened at the pharmacy queue at our clinic, too, in the line for women only. The majority of women who go to the windows - one to drop off prescription slips, and the other to pick up filled prescriptions - have absolutely no clue what a queue is and do not believe that there is such a thing as "waiting." It was there, at the "drop off window," that I refused to let an older woman cut us all off, and I was quite verbal about it - getting a nod and a quiet thank you from the young Saudi woman in front of me. It has absolutely nothing to do with respect, either, insofar as letting an older woman go first. It has to do with the fact that Saudis just do not believe they should have to follow societal norms and wait their turn.

Adil Ibrahim is a typical Saudi in that regard - that he doesn't believe he should have to wait in a long queue and that he should be served first... How'd that work our for you, Adil? Did you enjoy spending iftar [the after sunset meal that breaks fasting during the month of Ramadan] in jail? The story as reported, is that Adil wanted to go have iftar with some friends, who asked him to bring some ful and tameez [which I think, but am not positive, is a type of bread] with him. So Adil jumped out of bed - did he sleep all day? - and raced to the shop selling ful and tameez and upon seeing that there "was a long queue" he thought if he waited - like EVERYONE ELSE - that he would miss iftar so he "jumped the queue and asked the seller for some ful." The shop seller, who had his wits about him, "noticed that [Adil] Ibrahim had jumped the queue and so he refused to sell him ful and asked him to, instead, go to the end of the line." At that point an argument ensued and they began fighting. Unfortunately, the ful seller also ended up spending time in jail, along with Adil. Why didn't others in the queue, who obviously witnessed the scene, come to the defense of the shop seller to prevent him from being carted off to jail, when obviously, the entire situation was the fault of ONE man? No matter. The story, details Adil "jumping the queue," and serves as a perfect example to prove a point I made in a post a day or so ago...

This report in Arab News will, no doubt, be one of many published in the next few weeks - Ramadan started on September 1st and lasts for a month - which depicts the chaos that ensues as fasting ends for the day... I have said it before, and will say it again... I think a month of fasting borderlines on being downright dangerous. People get testy and anxious. They are thirsty and they are hungry. There are going to be car accidents, and face-to-face altercations, along with some health issues, as well. I had a discussion about this with a friend on the telephone the other day and she disagreed with me. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. She says that if you "work up to it" fasting is not difficult and can be, in fact, quite healthy. [What?!?] Perhaps she is right. I don't know and I can't say - I have never, on purpose, fasted. But I do think that going an entire day with NO LIQUID whatsoever is unwise given the fact that it is still very hot outside - yesterday our thermometer outside said 118° - that there is very little shade, and it has been slightly humid and dusty.

Although I have no problem with being respectful, here, in this Country, for the month of Ramadan and I am not going to go completely against the grain and be seen driving in our truck with my Evian in one hand and a cigarette in the other - I am not going to go without. I don't flaunt it, though, either. And, I continue to put water on the patio table outside for the gardener and the pool guy - and I did it for the guys that work in pest control who came again this week to spray those damn mealy bugs I just can't seem to get rid of. Whether they choose to drink it or not is up to them. Some have - and some haven't. Again, choice...

On the other hand, I am not going to be out walking The Kids without water for them. No way. The weather is NOT conducive to being without water! [If Ramadan fell in December or January going without water wouldn't be an issue.] Several years ago, I asked one of my DH's Saudi co-workers if this would be okay - for me to allow The Kids to have and drink water during our morning jaunts. His answer was, "Absolutely, that is okay." Ahh. Thank you. He did, however, give me a look that said, "You can't be serious, right?" But I was. Like I said, I don't want to be disrespectful about it. [I have my morning routine - and it is no secret that it starts out with my having "breakfast" at my computer - coffee and cigarettes, while I blog - then I put my walking "uniform" on and The Kids and I head out for an hour or an hour and a half. Part of my routine includes a ritual where I put chap-stick on - yes, I'm an addict - and chew two pieces of gum - while I walk. I cannot go for my walks without gum. So I am, I guess, going against the grain by chewing gum during daylight hours during Ramadan. If anyone "calls" me on it... Well, that hasn't happened, yet.]

Whatever... I just know that I am safer staying right here in the confines of our compound, than venturing outside during this month where schedules are turned upside down and people are tired, testy, thirsty and hungry. The driver that took me downtown a couple of afternoons ago said that it was absolutely "crazy" at night and that I should schedule my trips to the market in the morning. I don't have to be told twice. No siree. Next week when I need to go downtown I will make sure that I do it at nine o'clock and not wait until two o'clock in the afternoon when everyone is doing their shopping to prepare iftar meals. And, there is NO way you'll catch me going downtown in the evening until Ramadan and Eid are over. Sometime after October 4th...


  1. I would be like you I would tell people to have good manners and line up like the rest of us.

    I say well done!!!


  2. What can I say, Gill, but that I just can't help myself sometimes...

  3. Good for you!!!! I HATE it when people try to jump the line... and I have had to stop those annoying folks from doing so on several occasions ! I am rather tall 5'9"... and I remember once while waiting at the cinnabon line in Mall of Dhahran... this lady and her 4 daughters walked right in-front of me like I did not exist, and attempted to order.... what made me even more annoyed was that the idiot at the cash was about to take their order! I stood tall (I was a giant in-front of them) and told the man that I was to make my order first, then looked at the ladies and told them to learn some manners and to wait their turn. The younger girls gave me this look- a look that I translated as 'how dare u talk to my mom like that'; and I gave them my look; praying that they would try to make a scene, so I could truly let them feel my wrath!

    II don't mind letting someone cut the line, if I feel they are old, or ill, or any other reason I see fit... but I do have a problem with these annoying people expecting to be served ahead of everyone!

  4. Got any thoughts, LI, as to why these same people are able to follow societal norms outside of this country but NOT here? I am glad I am not the only one who is irked by this behavior - and I am glad I am not the only one who tries to make sure it DOESN'T happen!


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