Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Athens Airport, again

Here comes the aspect of blogging I was most looking forward to: airport updates.

I pointed out to the man who was in line behind me to purchase a 6 Euro cappucchino, that the tip jar held only single pennies. “Welcome to Europe”, I said, which he mistook for an invitation to have coffee together. He is reading over my shoulder now as I write and politely ignore him.

Welcome to Europe, that is, if Greece really counts as part of the esteemed fortress. I haven’t stayed abreast of the discourse on European values and norms and other things European intellectuals bide their time with. Where does Turkey stand these days? But Greece, in my humble opinion, is truly the pits, and a poignant example that democracy opponents have yet to fully exploit. If this is what a few thousand years of flirting with democracy looks like, who wants it? The Greeks today channel their democratic rights into accentuating their hardened sun-baked looks with vulgar makeup and big hair. They are exceptionally rude, even by continental European standards, and I hate to argue at this hour of the morning having not gotten a wink of sleep. The airplane boasted sub-zero temperatures and no blankets. I asked for a blanket twice and was told that there were none. I asked the scowling stewardess to turn the temperature up; I complained at great length about my cold rash. Finally after the third refusal, I responded sweetly that it’s ok, because I never liked Olympic Airways. I promptly received a blanket, albeit a "used" one. Why do so many Europeans respond only to verbal abuse? And I was so tired and unwilling to be nasty. I will still go and fill out a complaint form, because then I might get a voucher for a free flight, like I did last time I flew Air France and complained that my luggage had been misplaced for the sixth time in a row.
And now that I am a member of the European Union, can’t I make sweeping judgments about the nationals and customs of other member states? Isn’t it akin to someone from Maryland ragging on the inhabitants of New Jersey? That’s my hard-earned EU privilege. I can also accuse people of bleeding our mutual funds with the extra subsidies they require to remain in the club, because Germany—as you very well know--- is a VIP member. I’m sure the hairspray that goes into maintaining the poofiness of this Grecian creature’s hairdo next to me, somehow costs my folks tax money; I am subsidizing your look and the skin cancer treatment you will need. Lay off the tanning oil for a moment, won’t you? For the sake of the Union. Do it for us, for Europe. They should hire me for this integration process of creating a unified European identity. Yes we certainly do have things in common. Your shortcomings and misdeeds are my business. Do YOU recycle? Didn’t think so. And Athens is above all a haven for scrap metal. Driving through this city is like driving down Route 17 in New Jersey, except that instead of fast food joints and strip malls the roads here are lined with yards full of rusty junk. A collector’s paradise. Also their olive groves look a little dismal and untended to. I will call the EU Agricultural Commission tomorrow to complain. Its not too late to kick them out of the club, is it? Maybe we can just suspend their cigar and Jacuzzi privileges until they get their act together. And ban them from bingo night on Tuesdays. I can’t wait to be a pensioner to take full advantage of my European birthright.

Monday, June 19, 2006


[From last night. Posted today because Blogger was down]

Recently I paid a long overdue visit to the General Directorate of General Security in Beirut. The ambigious jurisdiction implied in the agency's title, does justice to the experience: it is generally a bureaucratic nightmare and an all around pain in the ass, which is quite possibly why the visa expiration had slipped my mind by 11 days. My last effort to get a six day extension required four visits and the scrutiny and stamps of at least a dozen individuals, housed in two buildings which are separated by a 12-lane stretch of highway, and a handful of roundabouts where 20-something lanes of traffic converge without a traffic light. I had sworn on the holy book of every officially recognized sect in Lebanon to the officer who finally processed my application that I would never return to this “banana republic” of his. He had smiled and responded by offering me coffee and a tissue to wipe my tears. I asked him if I would have to endure the same procedure if my gardener’s dog played with [Druze leader] Jumblatt’s dog --a lame analogy in a city where gardens and dogs are scarce. He had smiled again, and said, "Madame, please don't be sad".

Preparing to apologize for having belittled the agency, I entered the monolithic complex to confess to my illegal status, turned off my cell phone and prepared to deposit it, removed any jewelry prone to setting of metal detectors and handed the soldier at the door my German passport. He looked pleased by the cover, as some Lebanese are prone to when encountering a member of the “master race”, and then gulped when he glanced at the expiration date on the visa. “What happened?” he asked, baffled by the uncharacteristic lax behavior of the presumed Aryan specimen in front of him. “I, eh, I forgot. Don’t you know how sometimes you remember something the day before, and then you forget again for a very long time?” Oh yes, he knew precisely what I meant, his smile revealed. “Are you with Germany?”, he said cocking his head to the side. “No, no. God no”, I responded. “Brazil. Argentina. Italy”. “Ok, mademoiselle”, he grinned. “Please go to this desk here and talk to Colonel Yazbek”.

Colonel Yazbek smiled triumphantly, as he clutched my passport. “Ah, Deutschland ueber alles! You are with Germany?” “No, sir, I’m with Brazil. Argentina. Italy. In that order”. “Why?! You must be with Germany. They are the best. We will win the World Cup!” “Will you give me a visa extension if I am?”, I bargained opportunistically. “Yes, of course! Fadalleh (please, come in)”. After completing the obligatory final six steps of photocopying, explaining why I was late in extending my visa to seven other men in uniform, and declaring my support for various teams, I had my visa. On the way home, I purchased Iranian and Angolan flags, and swore never again to fawn patriotic sentiments under duress.

For many Lebanese, rooting for any team but the one most likely to win is an alien concept, a defeatist stance, a spoilt ballot. Without the incentive of gleaning personal gratification from the antics of Ronaldinho, what would be the point of the game? While I am sympathetic to Brazil because they are a creative, lively and fun bunch from a non-belligerent country, the German team doesn’t do a thing for me. They are stoic, uncharismatic, have names which include the root “pig-“, and they score goals by simply overcoming the statistical odds that at least one out of 20 attempts will succeed. Also their uniforms are a bland white, and their trainer a fair-weather sap who resides in California. Klinsmann emanates the same long-faced frigid lack of charisma as Steffi Graf, a German tennis player whose daddy beat the living daylights out of her and lied to her about having to pay taxes, before she sued him. But I also just don’t think the Germans stand a chance; they're not that good, even if they go into Blitzkrieg-mode during the last five minutes of the match. Maybe the sterile rigidity of the German Nationalmannschaft is somehow exotic to the Lebanese (the commentator on ART which has the exclusive rights in the region to screen the matches always refers to the team as “Nationalmannschaft”, as if that were a proper name rather than German for “national team” .) In any case, I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to enduring enthusiasm for the German team and occasionally—by extension--for me. I no longer wince when I hear a car radio blasting the German national anthem, or see a limbless paraplegic braving traffic, his view obscured by the many German flags inopportunely attached to his wheelchair. They know something I don’t. (Something in addition to the fact that Hitler was a courageous heroic leader with a noble vision for his people.) All the teams I like are losing (except for Ghana), and the American players are robots who don’t even flinch when they get an elbow smashed in the face. They are incorrigible optimists, even-tempered good sports and fast sprinters. They don't have the same easy familiarity with the ball as the players from other teams; they look like their training consists of running, running, running, followed by a few rounds of high-kicks. And there’s no glory when your fellow countrymen aren’t watching.

The Brazil-Australia match ended an hour ago, and people are still ceaselessly honking their car horns, shouting and firing rounds of ammunition into the air.
By the way, I’ve heard much talk lately of the 1982 World Cup, which was also the summer of that deathly Israeli invasion (Nr. 2). Some resentment was voiced over the convenient distraction posed by the tournament for the other Arab nations, while west Beirut was under heavy bombardment for weeks and some 18,000 Lebanese and Palestinians perished. Yes, much of the world recalls events and sentiments in relation to the World Cup. “It was a World Cup summer, when I lost my virginity/ we had our first child/ the Israelis invaded.” My thoughts go out to the Iraqis and Palestinians who aren’t out getting sloshed every time Brazil scores a goal.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Site meter round up, Pt. 1

The most intrusive function of the site meter is that you can view your hits by referrals, i.e. which site linked to this blog. Last week, a lot of stray visitors were searching for news on Sami Gemayel. Some ex-patriate Phalangist in Canada googled "Gemayel + King of Lebanon" and was referred to a post where I hail Nasrallah as the "unrivalled king of Lebanon" and poke fun at former King Gemayel's delinquent son, Sami. To you I say: Sorry if the motherland's not shaping up to your expectations. Today I had a visitor who performed a google search for "humiliated + white maid". I will liven up the visual content, to increase my readership amongst those in search of hardcore porn.

No more duets with Celine Dion

(courtesy of lebanese bloggers.blogspot.com)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Marines' song

Youtube removed the video because of "inappropriate content". Here is a functioning link:


According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, comments posted on Youtube by other military personnel express approval for the song's contents. One comment states: "This makes me happy to be a Marine. But look out! Here comes the rest of the country to call us evil!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Marine entertaining his fellow Marines with a song, entitled "My Haji Girl". It includes the lyrics,
"I grabbed her little sister and put her in front of me. As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed maniacally.

Haji refers to a Muslim who has performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, but is used by US soldiers in Iraq as a derogatory expression.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Lebanese intelligence services say they have uncovered a spy network working for Israel, the Lebanese As-Safir daily newspaper reported Monday.
This spy network was apparently responsible for the carbomb which killed the Islamic Jihad leader, Mahmoud al-Majdoub, and his brother in Saida late last month, as well as other assassinations.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Harris, the commander of Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says that the inmates who committed suicide did not do so out of despair. On the contrary, it was an act of war against the US:
"They are smart. They are creative, they are committed," he said.
"They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."
Too bad they're dead now, and can't be punished for waging war against the American "culture of life". Maybe mainland Cuba should be bombed for harboring those terrorists. And what's so smart and creative about hanging oneself with a bedsheet? I think they did it because they are sick of wearing orange jumpsuits and smoking Marlboros; they just long for a jallabiyah and a nargileh. Surely its not because they've lost hope after four years of living in a cage, blindfolded, beaten, humiliated with no recourse to due process and other legal protections. No, they're too "smart" and "creative" to be bogged down by the absence of petty creature comforts such as dignity, decent housing, freedom of movement, self-determination, etc.
I just received an e-mail from a friend who lives in Balata Camp, outside Nablus in the West Bank. He says there is not enough food, they haven't had gas for more than ten days to cook with, and that only 3-4% of students are registering for university, since no one is getting paid these days, because the PA's and many humanitarian organizations' funds have been frozen. He hasn't received his invalid pension for five months.

I am just not OK with the systematic starvation of the Palestinians, apart from the every day maiming, killing, landgrabbing, water theft, infiltration, mass imprisonment, harassment, etc. Hello, progressive America, might you want to donate some money to counter what your tax dollars are doing? Yes I know you are busy protesting the deaths of every American soldier in Iraq, and building a "progressive majority in your lifetime", and that's all fine and good. But the Palestinians are living in a state of emergency now.
Why is there not more of an outrage over the fact that the Palestinians are being punished for electing Hamas? How can people labor under the illusion that entire populations can be wrong or evil or misled? How is the rise of Islamism in Iraq, Somalia, and Palestine under Bush's tenure a mere coincidence? Did you see how skinny those kids were that were wounded and massacred on the beach in Gaza?
No, this is not a humanitarian issue. It is also not a mere tragedy. It is a consequence of US policy, if you are American, and European policy, if you are European. If you are Israeli, it goes without saying. I am not in favor of depoliticizing the plight of the Palestinians, but without food and medical treatment, your solidarity or alternatively, your hesitation to "support a terrorist organization" doesn't amount to much.

And how is Gaza not like a concentration camp? Before someone shakes with indignation and flies into a self-righteous fit about the rightful historical ownership of that term, I'm not talking Nazi extermination camp. The origin of the word as it was used to refer to the besiegement and ghetto-ization of indigenous populations in unsanitary overpopulated areas in South Africa and Latin America at the turn of the century, after some savvy colonialist realized that they would slowly die without too much interference, applies to Gaza today. Of course firing a few missiles in, once in a while, helps speed up the process, and then funding and supporting that lapdog Abbas and his Fatah thugs, and sowing unrest, doesn't hurt.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Those hotheaded Arabs just can't get enough of pacts. Just the other day, the Lebanese council of saints got together and agreed to abide by a "pact of honor". Today, the BBC reports, three prisoners died at the Guantanamo naval base, in what appears to have been a "joint suicide pact". Those hopeless romantics at Guantanamo were at it again. Always striving for the afterlife. Cuba isn't to their liking? It must be because those incorrigable fundamentalists are perturbed by all the loose women, dancing and boozing in the streets of Havana.

In any case, Bush responded to calls for the prison to be shut down, by saying: "We would like to end the Guantanamo - we'd like it to be empty".
I think his advisors suggested he use the "Is the glass half-full or half-empty" analogy to convey why "the Guantanamo" can't be "ended".
"There are some that, if put out on the streets, would create grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world. And, therefore, I believe they ought to be tried in courts here in the United States," he added.
If put "out on the streets", "there are some" that might maul a girl scout with their sharp fangs or clobber a retiree with their flushable Korans. And those American courts are so over-burdened, didn't you know, with weighing in on the rights of the permanently comotose, charging eight-year olds with murder and locking up people for selling a dimebag of weed. Yes, I understand perfectly, that those four-hundred-and-something men need to be caged, tortured and humiliated for a few more years.
But really I don't. Someone please explain to me why? Just out of defiance and arrogance? Because the American people don't care, and they can get away with it? So what if a handful of NGOs and the UN "strongly urge" the US to try really really really hard to avoid torturing and killing, because it is-- after all-- a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
If I was them, I wouldn't give a rat's ass about that either. And it certainly helps that all those self-righteous European governments were in on the extraordinary renditions, kidnappings, and secret prisons. They don't have a leg to stand on. Denial may not be a river in Egypt, but Geneva damn sure is a quaint city with a nice lake that churns out inconsequential paperwork. I tip my hat to Kofi Annan. I know its not his fault that the UN's final death sentence was felled during his tenure. His time is best spent extrapolating on the "benefits of cross-pollination" and other parallels between the UN and the World Cup. When he steps down as Secretary-General at the end of the year, he'll get a nice professorship and his students will like him for his pleasant Commonwealth accent, his gentle spirit and amiable demeanor.
.... In more good news from the Carribean, Trinidad and Tobago played a good game against those obscenely tall angular Swedes. Good night.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Who's your daddy now?

Lebanon's favorite warlords and sheiks didn't agree on much during yesterday's seventh round of national reconciliation talks. "The country's top rival politicians", postponed a decision on the disarmament of Hezbollah, one of the remaining items on the agenda, since the sore-losing March 14th coalition dropped its demands for President Lahoud to resign.
At this stage in the divide-the-cake game, postponements are a good sign, even a sign of political maturity, when the alternative is only breaking these token talks off entirely and unleashing the bloodthirsty rabble on eachother in the streets. Which noone can afford right now, what with Nasrallah in a position to demographically and militarily bitch slap everyone around. Nobody realistically expects a resolution, despite the international cheerleaders who heap praise on Lebanon's democratic process for every round of postponed "dialogue"; so yes, the talks went well.

But at least the sectarian leaders, who can't even collectively decide to install a traffic light (which would admittedly be a waste of time and money), gave eachother this: a "pact of honor". And in case you were wondering, this has very little bearing on the aggravated economic situation of Lebanon's citizenry, the question of borders, Palestinians living in squalor, Israeli aggression, electoral reform, etc. It means that Lebanon's political class of saints agreed to publically respect and uphold eachother's ueberhuman status. They made a pact, with blood and chanting and all, rituals procured from a "Skull and Bones" training tape, that Saad Hariri picked up during a recent visit to the White House.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Uncle Sam needs you

It seems that spammers are taking advantage of how credible an offer involving US corruption in Iraq is. This from my spam mailbox:

US Soldier
to me

Content-Type: text/plainContent-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
*Encrypted Message from A US Soldier*
*Good day *
*This is a fully Encrypted Message for Security Reasons *
*I am A US Soldier(NAME WITHHELD),I served with the 1st Armored Division in Iraq.My superior and I moved funds belonging to Saddam Hussein, the total is $25,000,000.00(Twenty Five million US dollars)**Click on this link to read about the events that took place here *http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2988455.stm
*Basically since we are working for the government we cannot keep these funds, we have decided to look for someone to help us keep this funds this is why I have contacted you, so you can keep it for us in your safeaccount or an offshore account. *
*We will divide the total funds in three ways, since we are three involved in this. You will take 30%, and 30% will be for me, and my superior will take 30%.
10% will be kept aside for expenses*
*This is confidential and should not be discussed with anyone.*
*There is no risk involved whatsoever because we have covered this up since 2003*
*If you are interested i will send you the full details *
*Please reply me asap*

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Breaking News!

Riots broke out in the Mar Elias neighborhood of Beirut late last night, and quickly spread all over the city. Srilankan, Filipino and Egyptian maids took to the streets smashing the storefronts of the boutiques that sell those humiliating maid uniforms and looting the offices of the liaison agencies that brought them to Lebanon. In tow, the Lebanese flags that they were once forced to carry while attending March 14th rallies with their masters, as well as their masters’children, who were raised by the maids, and have declared their solidarity with them. Shortly after 2AM, some maids broke into the home of Saad Hariri and other prominent rich Beirutis, forced him into a grey-and-white maid's uniform and paraded him around the street, with a leash around his neck.

The riots quickly spread to the Gulf region, with Southeast Asian workers taking up arms against their Saudi/ Emirati/ Kuwaiti employers. A communiqué was delivered to the offices of Al Jazeera in Beirut expressing the maids’ demands. They claim they will release Saad Hariri and end the riots if and when the following demands are met: a 35-hour work week, full benefits, decent housing, an end to corporal punishment and sexual harassment by their masters, equal protection under the law, marriage rights, salary increases, a radio station, and free education and citizenship for their Lebanese-born children.

Geraldina Marcos, employed by the Khoury family in Rabih, is suspected of instigating the revolt. When police raided the Khoury house, they found thousands of pamphlets and a print press in the broom closet in which she lived. Mr. Khoury told the press, "We had no idea that she wasn't happy working for us. She seemed perfectly content." His wife added, "I never trusted her. On a few occasions, I caught her casting seductive looks at my husband." Geraldina Marcos was unavailable for comment. A spokesperson for the March 14th coalition accused pro-Syrian elements of working to destabilize the country, and said that the maids' protests were serving Damascus' interests.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Guardians of Monot Street

Despite what well wishers President Bush and David Welch, local cheerleaders from USAID, the US "pro-Lebanon" lobbyists, and a handful of deluded March-14th-changed-everything yuppies might continue to claim, Beirut sure feels like the shit is hitting the fan, every other day. It makes you wonder what Jumblatt is thinking, having placed his lot decisively with the losing side. He must be kicking himself, stabbing himself with an old syringe. Nasrallah is now the unrivaled king of Lebanon, thanks to the failures of their silly little [insert near extinct flora or fauna, or Bush keywords "independence" or "freedom", as desired ] revolution.

While the zai'im/warlords/sheiks/entrepeneurs who run this little country still labor under the pretense of de-escalation, by regularly scheduling and postponing "reconciliation dialogues", their naughty offspring has taken matters into their own hands:
First there was Sami Gemayel, the son of that lout of a former President and the "supreme" Phalangist leader, Amin Gemayel. Last Thursday when Hezbollah constituents took to the streets to protest the comedy skit mocking Nasrallah, he and 50 of his friends, who were just about to go all out and purchase the $5000 Magnum champagne bottle at Crystal's on Monot Street, instead decided to go brawl with the angry teenagers burning tires. He told the press the next day from his hospital bed that he had been attacked by Hezbollah rioters with crowbars, while he and a handful of friends were trying to protect Monot Street, which is lined with bars and cafes and frequented by teeny boppers. In other words, he lied; and even better, his family convinced the Interior Minister to go with Sami's story, rather than what the army had reported and what was caught on CCTV camera. What really happened was that the Lebanese Army stepped in to stop the Maronite brigade from advancing towards Bashara-al-Khourry road, and little Sami was injured in clashes with the state's armed forces. He was neither protecting "our Christian neighborhoods" , nor did a savage Shia smack him upside the head with a metal crowbar. So much for that.

Then late saturday night, the sons of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and President Emile Lahoud challenged eachother to a duel. The disagreement started over who should go first at a traffic light. Lahoud Jr. allegedly rammed the vehicle of Jumblatt Jr. in a high speed chase, and fired shots at his car. Well actually, the Republican Guards who serve as Lahoud Jr.'s bodyguards did. Very Capulet-Montaguesque, wouldn't you say? What do you think their daddies make of all this? You don't really think that they are egging them on, do you? That would be quite irresponsible, considering that both Gemayel's clashes with the army and Jumblatt and Lahoud's offspring were wielding weapons in densely populated areas, thereby endangering "regular" citizens. And certainly setting a dangerous precedent. The best part of the story of course is that they were released after being "swift[ly] interrogated" by the army. Yes, those same keen and able security forces will protect this country if Hezbollah is disarmed.

CORRECTION: Sami Gemayel was captured fighting with the army on camera by a TV crew, not on CCTV. And still Minister Fatfatliar upholds Gemayel's claim that he was injured by Hezbollah rioters. (Thanks Jamal)

Friday, June 02, 2006

People who wear black don't have a sense of humor

What makes for a good news item in the western media? Muslims who lack a sense of humor. For the news wire reports covering last night's riots in Beirut, a journalist's work was made very easy. He or she could apparently just take reports from last February's protests against the Danish cartoons, and supplement "cartoon" with "comedy", "the Prophet Mohammed" with "Hassan Nasrallah", and "the Danish embassy" with "the road leading to the airport". In fact, that was my favorite detail: "the guerrilla group's loyalists blocked a main road leading to Lebanon's sole international airport." Doesn't that scare the bejeezus out of you? They made it impossible for people to flee the country! Nevermind that "the road that leads to the airport" also leads to everything south of downtown Beirut, including were most of the protesters live, and that the roadblock was right at the beginning of Bechara al Khoury motorway, a good 10 kilometers from the airport itself.
Leave out the fact that the producer of the comedy show, whose humor was lost on all those crazy Shia ( who only ever wear black to demonstrate their humorlessness,) is a rightwing Christian, who recently made a short film that was largely condemned as a call to arms for Christians and an incitement to sectarian violence. The film ("So that the Martyr doesn't die") was widely and purposely distributed for free in Muslim neighborhoods, so that-- in case this wasn't a real call to arms for Christians-- at least Muslims might take it as such. Nice guy, this Charbel Khalil.
Secondly, the comic skit made fun of Nasrallah for going on and on about how Hezbollah liberated the country from the Israelis; let's not forget that they also liberated their communities from the Christian rightwing Israeli proxy SLA army that terrorized and tortured those same humorless Shia.
I'm not excusing any violence or property damage that ensued. I myself was in a long line of cars stuck on the highway where rioters were smashing cars, and was forced to turn around and drive down the highway in the wrong direction to get away, and I also saw the burning tires on the "road that leads to the only airport". But every time there's a reason to be upset with teenage boys going on a rampage, the media's portrayal and ridiculing and blatant disregard for the background facts overshadows this.
What was strange about the rioting was that Hezbollah supporters are usually incredibly disciplined, at organized protests they practice impecable crowd control, and are generally respectful of public property; at least compared to the Hariri teenage riot squads that chase and terrorize street cleaners, stick their stupid stickers all over statues and coopt public space by hitching plastic tents. And this protest was not called for by Hezbollah; in fact, Nasrallah and other party members told people to go home, even begged them. This was a powerful spontaneous outpouring of anger over a very real political issue, namely Hezbollah's right to keep its arms to defend the country, and not principled humorlessness over the mocking of a religious figure. Just for the record.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fighting corruption

This morning I went to the kiosk across from Future TV in Sanayeh to buy a recharge card for my pre-paid cell phone. There was an MTC Touch sign outside the kiosk, which usually signifies that the charge cards are on sale, and that the establishment is an official vendor. I popped my head inside and asked to purchase a 40-unit card for 20-day usage. (One can either purchase a 23$ card which expires after 10 days, a 33$ card for 20 days or $46 for 30 days.) Anticipating the usual transaction of purchasing a plastic-wrapped scratch card with a 13-digit pin number, I was surprised that instead the man inside the kiosk signaled for me to follow him to the back of the kiosk, out through the back door, across a parking lot and into an office. There he sat down at his desk, handed me a gardenia flower, and made some phone calls. He then jotted down a 13-digit pin number and reassured me that I could use it for 20 days. When I entered the pin number, the phone display told me that the charges were only good for 10-days. I pointed this out to the man, who got back on the phone and shouted at a woman, and then said that the charge was good for 15-days, a denomination that is not offered by the phone company.
I told him that the computer of the phone says the card expires in ten days, that this is of no use to me, as I won’t use all the units in ten days and that this is not what I asked for.

There were two other men in the office and a secretary who kept shaking her head behind the man’s back. She smiled at me, and rolled her eyes, in solidarity, I imagined. I was getting progressively angrier that this was costing me so much time. I told the man that if he doesn’t have the product on sale that I asked for, he could have just said so, and that usually I purchase a card and know what I’m getting. The first man countered that the charge was now on my phone and that I had to pay; I said I would not. He grabbed my cell phone and said he wouldn’t give it back. I told him I would go to the police. He stood up and shouted, “Go to the police!”The other two men tried to cut a deal where I would pay only 16$; I refused. I started to draw a graph of when I use my units and explained, half in English, half in Arabic, that I would not make use of the charge in the ten days before they expire, because I was leaving for business in Syria and Jordan (which of course is not true). And then all three men were standing and yelling at me and I lost the last inkling of patience, much to the amusement of the secretary. I called the first man who was still clutching my phone a liar and a crook, I tossed the flower he had given me at the beginning of our transaction across the table, I flailed my arms. I eyed a stapler and stack of business cards on the table, and considered throwing those, too. Finally one of the two other men grabbed my phone from the other man’s hand, placed it in front of me and shouted that he would pay for the charge. This of course was an invitation for me to decline the offer, and to pay. I quickly took the phone and bolted. He shouted, “Tikrameh!” (You’re welcome) after me; I barely turned my head and shouted back, “Islamo” (thank you) and “Allah ma3ak” (God be with you). Back at home I used my $20 dollars of free units to call a friend and tell him this story.