“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”….until recently I only thought of this saying in the context of the fury of a woman being ‘dumped’ by a man. On looking it up I found the full phrase to be
“Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”
Oddly enough the phrase came to me as I found myself after midnight being smiled at by two boys in their early 20’s.
The full story…….11pm on a hot Egyptian July night, the street is quiet – too hot even for the children who would normally be playing in the street at this time. I am relaxing in front of the TV. Gradually I begin to notice that some noise is intermittently distracting me. Suddenly I became fully conscious what the noise was and I could scarcely believe my ears. It was someone hammering, no, not some ONE ….. more than one. I went to the balcony and there they were! Directly across the street hammering away to beat the band, two young fellas intent on putting up the timber casing for the foundations of a building.
I could see this was not going to be a quick job….this hammering was going to go on all through the night! Now, for the most part I am a calm person but I have my moments of rage….I decided I would handle this diplomatically. I would give them the chance to be as magnanimous and accommodating as I had just decided to be. I walked across the road. I asked one of them for the foreman’s number, called the number and was assured by the foreman that the work would cease in 10 minutes.
I went back indoors, settled myself in front of the TV and allowed it to distract me for an hour. The 10 minutes was obviously 10 Egyptian minutes not European. I called the foreman again….”assif, assif, so sorry – stop now, I will call the men and tell them stop, assif, assif, so so sorry”.
I waited 10 minutes – no change, still hammering away across the road – 15 minutes past midnight. I heaved a sigh at the thought of what was now inevitable. Dow the stairs, out the front door, crossed the street, through the building site, my anger mounting with each step – anger at once again being forced to morph into a harridan!
“Eh de de??” (what’s all this about?) I shout at the two young men, gesturing wildly with my hands towards the timber on the road. Then IT happened…..the eldest boy smiled condescendingly at me, followed by the younger one. Hard to say if they were smiling or laughing, but as far as I was concerned they were laughing….laughing at my anger, laughing at me, laughing because I had believed they were going to stop work, laughing because they had no intention of stopping work, laughing at my powerlessness.
POWERLESS? Scorned? Who me? That was when the phrase flashed across my mind “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!” The gates of hell opened (I’m only 5ft and a bit “plump” by the way)….all I was missing was the flailing frying pan! I can’t even tell you what I said. Suffice it to say that they dropped the hammers and backed away across the street. That was not the worst of it….there were about 5 Egyptian women sitting on the roadside, highly amused by the scene they just witnessed and feeling they should intervene to calm me down….which is ok, this is the Egyptian way…….and it went fine until I turned to leave…..and heard a little titter of a giggle behind me from the largest one who was now standing 3 steps higher than me in a doorway.
What followed is unmentionable and I greatly regret it….let’s just say I speak enough Arabic to wipe the smile off someone’s face if driven to it!……there is an ongoing debate in the world as to how much the social environment we live in shapes our behaviour. Having lived for so many years in a different culture I have to come down heavily in favour of the side which insists the environment has a huge effect on how we behave.
This incident is just one personal example – unfortunately I have found here that soft, sweet talk really gets me nowhere in situations like this. If I really need something to happen, if I really want someone here to realise I am serious about wanting it to happen, then I have to display this emotionally……having to display anger is not pleasant but it sure beats feeling powerless and scorned! There was no more construction work that night!
Now for the icing on the cake!……three nights later, the concrete having been poured into the foundations and dried – it was time to take down the timber casing. The same two smiling young lads…..waited until 1am to start work…..you see they don’t know that us “foreigners” for the most part, do not go into the same unconscious, blissful Universe of Sleep that Egyptians seem to be able to access.
Thankfully, it was enough that they saw me marching across the building site towards them for them to realise they were in a no-win situation. I heard no more that night, but at 6am next morning when I opened my front door there was the eldest of the smiling young men…….however, he was not smiling. He was glaring balefully across the space between us, right into my eyes………….he must have been sitting there all night! I am sorry he had two wasted nights but what would you have done? Sleep deprivation is not pleasant!