Thursday, July 10, 2008

Profane passenger

A few days ago, I hailed a servis from Geitawe to Raouche. As we were inching through traffic towards my destination–– after the other passengers had disembarked ––the driver began to ask me the usual questions:

Are you married?
Of course.
To a Lebanese?
Of course.
What religion does your husband belong to?
No religion.
Nothing? No. I mean, is he Muslim or Christian?
Not Muslim, not Christian. Nothing.
No he must be Christian or Muslim.
He doesn’t believe in God.
No, its impossible. He doesn't believe in God?
No. I don’t either.
You don't either? You must believe in God. You will be more satisfied. You must! You must!

As I reached into my wallet to pay him for the 45-minute journey across town, he refused payment with a plea to save my soul. I got out of the cab and left my godless wad of thousand lira bills on the back seat.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Telepathic handyman

I moved into a new apartment; to furnish it as quickly and inexpensively as possible, I borrowed a spare refrigerator from a friend. After we had moved, cleaned and let it sit for 24 hours for good measure, the refrigerator didn't work, instead emitting a sporadic rumbling sound.

Half-a-dozen of our new neighbors came to our rescue, offering their “best refrigerator repair guy”, until the shopkeeper next door convinced us that his “was the best in the entire region.” The handyman was duly summoned. “Don’t be worried, because he is a cripple,” the shopkeeper whispered loudly, as the repairman retrieved a wrench from his tool box using one of two deformed arms.

He never did put the wrench to use; instead he sat down at the kitchen table and over endless cups of coffee and half a dozen cigarettes, listened to the refrigerator hum–– his eyes closed, his chin resting on his chest. I sat across from him, pouring him more coffee. At times, I thought he might have nodded off, his breath perfectly synchronized with the soft rumble from the refrigerator, the ash from his cigarette growing longer–– a hovering, precarious arch. I nudged the ashtray closer. Then he would raise his head, his eyes still closed, and mumble, “It might be the thermostat, in which case you had best throw the whole thing away.” Or “It might be the motherboard. Don’t bother. It’ll cost you more than a new one to repair it.” After 45 minutes, I left S. and the repairman to their own devices. Not long after I left the room, S. discovered a dashboard with buttons, hidden behind the flap on the front door where he could adjust the refrigerator’s functions.

The handyman had another cup of coffee before he left; he refused payment. “Next time,” he said, waving a contorted arm at us as he shuffled out the door.