Due to various visa shenanigans I am now stuck back in the Kingdom, unable to cross the Causeway. This will go on for the next five weeks until the March recess and another visa run- and then it will be London for sure.
Although I had vowed to spend my time productively, no writing has happened yet- hence this. Instead I spent an hour fretting that my hair was thinning before concluding that, yes, it may well be- but as long as it is uniform, it doesn’t matter much.
I was finally reunited today with my company car- a white Toyota Yaris with 80 Kilos on the clock- six weeks after I abandoned it in the car park of the Dhahran International Hotel. It was covered in bird shit and a thick layer of desert dust.
“Car wash, sir?” asked one of the Indians who patrol with buckets amongst the vehicles.
“Yes sure,” I said. “How much?”
“Oh, I don’t know. You say.”
This is an annoying thing that all the people from the subcontinent offering a service do in this part of the world- ask you to name the price, hoping that you will come up with some astronomically inflated figure. It is most annoying.
We agreed a price- too steep, but hey. I walked round the passenger’s side of the car and noticed I had a flat.
On closer inspection, I realised that not only was it a flat tyre, it wasn’t even a match for the others: nor was the wheel, a rusting remnant of some old junk heap, the tyre completely bald and ripped apart from probable drifting.
Drifting is a Saudi sport where they drive even more maniacally than usual, pulling handbrake turns on busy highways and sometimes shooting guns out the windows as they go. My students sometimes gleefully show me videos on their smartphones of drifters gone wild- all torn-off limbs flying out of tumbling Toyotas and squashed spectators who got a little too close.
I got the car wash Indians to change the wheel also, wondering whether I should phone the hire company. When I got back to my hotel room, the papers couldn’t be found amongst my clutter.
I spend an hour thinking I really should be writing something, but instead become convinced my hair is thinning, mildly panic about being nearly 40 and end up watching two episodes of Breaking Bad, back to back.
Next morning, I bumped into Kiwi Mark at breakfast. He’s working at the same company and just been promoted, meaning he now divides his time between two sites- hence the hotel visit.
We talk in between prodding our iPads. He tells me he’s meeting some friends tonight. Says he can call me. But I don’t know the number. I say I can call him, but he doesn’t know his number either. Neither of us have our phones.
So I give him my email address. It takes three attempts at cancelling autocorrect to get it in.
Later, I get in the Toyota and make a quick journey to the local shopping mall. While not exactly a long way, I pass a huge milestone in that this is my first time behind the wheel (barring driving the car from my workplace- where I was tailgating a colleague) in about fifteen years. Poverty in my 20s, city living and nearly a decade of TEFL teaching have seen to it that I have become deskilled. But now I’m back in the driving seat.
I am, however, so uncertain about exactly where I’m going, that I buy a GPS from the Virgin Megastore.
Yet another gadget to add to the haul. The transhumanist agenda has nothing on me.
Later, Mark doesn’t email me and I don’t get to do anything except watch two more episodes of Breaking Bad and feel guilty enough about not writing that I actually do some writing. Yay me.