Friday, October 16, 2009

Gretchen makes a great impression on the maintenance people yet again.

If you'll remember, last time we had maintenance people in our house, I managed to misunderstand them AND ignore them according to the Arabic laws of hospitality. This time, I'm fairly sure I surpassed my last bout of ignorance and rudeness.

A worker was supposed to come over at 10 a.m. to fix a drip in our bathroom and a toilet leak in my roommate's bathroom. A guy is coming tomorrow to fix our stove. Heather, who cleverly went to bed at 10 p.m. last night, was supposed to be up to let the water guy in and converse with him, while I, who went to bed at 2 a.m. after cavorting around the city, slept.

At 9:40 this morning, the doorbell rang. I heard it and rolled over. Heather will get it, I thought. Nope. It sounded again. I blearily sat up and put my Japanese yukata on over my tiny pajama shorts so as not to scare and/or incite the natives. As I rubbed sleep out of my eyes, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure if this was water guy or stove guy. So I opened the door. "Marrhaba," I said politely. I wanted to say, "Are you the kind gentlemen who will be fixing the leak in our water closet this fine morning?" Instead, all I could come up with in Arabic was, "Fi my mushkala?" (There is water problem?) I also grinned hysterically.

The guy took one look at me and headed into the kitchen to figure out for himself what he was supposed to do. "Um," I said, showing off my impressive vocabulary in the morning. "The leak is in the bathroom?" He smiled, nodded and ignored me. Ok. I frantically texted Heather, who told me she was at the shops by our house and would be home shortly, inshallah. I continued wandering aimless around our dining room. Just as the guy started questioning me in extremely mumbled Arabic, our doorbell rang again. It was our guard, who speaks less English than I do Arabic, which is pretty amazing in itself. He went to the kitchen and began doing whatever it was that the guy had just asked me to help him with.

I thought the kitchen would take awhile, so I decided to brush my teeth. I was right in the middle of vigorously brushing, with toothpaste foam dripping out of my mouth, when the two guys showed up at the bathroom door to fix the leak in the sink. I stared at them wide-eyed for half a second, toothpaste steadily dripping from my mouth to the sink, and then gave a muffled, "Hello." There was nothing for it. With my audience watching, I spit the toothpaste into the sink and left the bathroom. "These Americans are so nutty," I'm sure the guys were saying as I exited, "and they sure don't know how to dress themselves."

Fortunately Heather arrived soon after and was able to take of the roll of hostess, which she did much better than I did. She spoke to them in much better Arabic and even offered tea, while I sulked on the couch and tried to stay out of the way.

I really must work on my people skills before the stove guy comes over tomorrow.

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