“Do you speak arabic?” I am often asked…….from now on my answer will be “just enough to cause a riot if I want!”  One thing that sends my blood pressure up is when someone jumps a queue I am standing in.  Now, if the person is in a terrible hurry (even if I am also) and asks nicely if the rest of us in the queue mind, and gives us a reason, even if it’s not exactly life and death I always find myself saying “sure, go ahead if it’s ok with everyone else behind me – and you know what?  I have never heard anyone refuse in this example.  BUTTTTTTT when some jerk just jumps in without so much as a “by your leave” then that is an entirely different matter.

Sometimes I fume inwardly but occasionally I retaliate – well, today it way HOT in Cairo, I had walked to the bank, got my number 550 and waited patiently while the number progressed from 420 to 498……..then the number board went blank!  I ask an official who tells me “don’t worry, it will re-start”.  Well, it didn’t and the next thing I see is a security man telling people to go stand in front of any of the 18 or so cashier windows.  I took a quick look along the lines being formed, noticed one window with about 8 women only forming a line and noticed other windows with men and women going to queue up in the same line, saw one window with only 4 men and moved quickly to take my position in that one and a few men fell into place behind me.

1st. in the queue finishes, second in the queue finishes, 3rd in the queue is in the middle of his transaction when this big, fat, rhinocerous ambles her way past me and positions herself next to the man being served!  (nothing against fat people, I’m not exactly lightweight myself so calling her a rhino is referring not to her size alone but to her attitude also)  Nobody says a word…..I take a deep breath as man no. 3 moves away and the rhino moves to take his place and, in arabic, at the top of  my voice I demand “where do you think you’re going?”  To which the rhino snorts “What’s wrong with you?”  “What’s wrong with me?” I retort!  “This man (pointing to the one in front of me) was here before you, I was here before you and so were these men behind me!”  the rhino’s answer “so what? you want to go next – go!”  I said “no, this man is next then I am after him”

By now the men behind me and the people in the queues on either side have woken up and are adding their two cents.  But rhino isn’t moving – it has to do with having thick skin you see, if it was me in her place I would have bolted from the bank in red-faced embarrassment.  The young lady behind the counter is looking helplessly from the rhino to the man in the queue as both have put their bank card in front of her.  She goes to take the rhino’s card and I squash the little man in front of me against the counter as I grab rhino’s card back and push his card toward the teller.  “Security! security! I want security – this is not right” I scream.  Re-action from rhino? none, she ignores me, gives the little man a shove to the side and thrusts her card in the window opening to the teller.

Now, I really lose it because the teller starts to process rhino’s card!  I could not believe it!  Security arrives, hears the story from those around me, takes my passport and bank card from my hand and goes to put it in the window opening to the teller (God love him, he thinks he is helping me!)  He beats a hasty retreat when I intercept the documents shouting “no! no! this man (little man) is next and then me!  It’s no good, I have lost the battle because the teller is now handing rhino her card and money.  Rhino waddles towards the exit under my baleful stare.  The men around are smiling at me and nodding approval.  “She thinks she is a queen or what?” I demand of them.  “No, no more queens in Egypt!” comes the chorus “Mubaraks are gone!”  “this is free Egypt!” – got quite patriotic and revolutionary there for a couple of seconds!

But it’s not over yet, by the time the little man in front of me finishes his business my temp. is still up.  I tell the young lady behind the counter “you were wrong!”  “I was wrong?!” she questions in disbelief.  “Yes, you were wrong” I said, “you took her card and you should not have.  We have all been waiting here for over an hour and a half, she walked in off the street, pushed her way in here and you did her business first, so that makes her what? A queen? and the rest of us standing here what? – rubbish?  “You can’t talk like that to me!” the young teller exclaims “I can and I am!” I retorted.  She leaves her seat and appeals to whom I presume is a senior management gentleman in the glass office behind her.

Mr. Senior Manager comes out to investigate and is inundated with loud explanations from those around me (we have now all bonded emotionally together in true revolutionary spirit against the departed rhino).  He quickly disappears back into his glass office telling the young lady to get on with her work – now she is the one with the red face.  She is also now seeing my quite considerable transactions with the bank on her computer screen and realises she is not dealing with a petulant tourist but a businesswoman!

I sign my bank receipt and she slams it back up on the counter telling me to write my address – this is the first time I have ever been asked to do this in a bank, the passport usually suffices.  I write the address and slam it back on the counter with the same force she used in presenting it to me, take my money and walk away – head up, shoulders back – “Don’t mess with me!” was probably written all over my face!  Yes, I speak enough arabic to start a riot!

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  1. I use my blog as a therapy session for these instances, my revenge on the offending person by telling the world! – as you can see there are a few instances of frustration here!

    One of the things I did not understand when I got here were the very vocal screaming/fighting incidents that would occasionally break out in my street between neighbours or in houses between family members……the latter usually ending up with the neighbours running in to bring the peace!

    Now I understand that they let out their anger and frustration in the moment then later they kiss and make up! I have learned how to do that! Much better than keeping it in – now the bank incident makes me laugh when I look back on it and the anger is gone.

  2. Having been an expat living in another culture where infuriating behaviour was the norm, I found my reactions to circumstances like these become more and more extreme. I began to react and behave uncharacteristically because I was struggling with the mad lifestyle (and madness) of the place.

    Having been in Cairo just last November, there are similarities between it and Hong Kong (where I lived for 5 years) and I urge you to keep check on your stress (and sanity) levels. Don’t let it overcome you. I had become borderline crazy before I left that place.

    That said, I hope you stay, as I intend staying at your Luxor digs when I return.

  3. I love a feisty woman!!! Way to go Mara for sticking up for what’s right !!!