another hour of my life I will never get back…
Dubai is one of those places where you frequently get to the end of the day, or the end of the week, and you wonder what on earth happened. What happened to the time? What did you achieve? Why am i so frustrated? I have spent many hours musing why this is and what it is about Dubai that’s so hard to explain to people when they ask what it’s like to live here. Depending on my mood and how the day has gone, I will usually respond with something expansive. Some days, I may reply with a simple expletive. Today was one of those days. I found myself musing that here was another hour of my life I will never get back.
Now, when I explain to you what happened, I have no doubt that you are going to finish up thinking, “what is this chicks problem… doesn’t sound so drastic to me”, but you have to believe me… there’s just something about these interactions that makes you want to open the window in the office and jump out screaming, or at the very least, stab yourself in the eye over and over with a blunt object.
A simple scenario – I parked in a carpark and took the parking card. I had the card to get out of the carpark in my purse. I lost the card.
In most places I imagine you go to see the guard station, possibly pay them an inflated fee, and then you exit with your car and head home?
Nope – not in Dubai!
My first stop had to be Facilities Management. Here, there was only one person on duty and he was chatting with his friend. They both looked at me and said, almost in unison, “we’re closed.” I had to pull out the big Puss in Boots sad eyes and I explained my sad situation to them.
I have noticed here that when you explain a sad or desperate situation to most workers, it’s almost as though they get a little bit excited that they have an opportunity to make someone else’s life suck more than theirs. They seem to get especially excited if you are a silly expat woman without a husband in sight.
So, both of these lovely gentlemen looked at me and snickered as I pleaded my case for someone to let me out of the carpark. They both shake their heads and say that I need the card to get out of the boom gate and I must find it. Lots of tsking and head shaking, umming and ahing later and I start to get depressed. I ask if I can leave the car here for the night and get a cab home. They both perk up looking very alarmed saying “That will get you into big trouble!”
“You will have to go and see security” one of them decides suddenly… “8th floor”. I protest that it’s so late there is probably not anyone there, and I have to pick my little boy up from childcare. Is there nothing that can be done here?
So, he tells me that I must call Mohammed in Security and explain my plight. I protest that wouldn’t it be better coming from them if they know Mohammed and they understand my plight – after all aren’t these already established relationships between these people? That same snicker as one of them magnanimously offers to locate the number of Mohammed for me.
So, I thank them both and walk away to have my conversation with Mohammed whilst they continue packing up and chatting. I plead my case again. Alas, Mohammed is also unable/unwilling to assist me. He directs me to call Mohammed as well – a different one this time. He assures me that this is the Mohammed I need to speak to and he proceeds to provide me with his employee number – I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that number but before I can clarify, he has hung up and cut off one Mohammed avenue.
So I head back to the snickering friends for further assistance. I ask them if they know this Mohammed mark 2 that Mohammed mark 1 speaks of and whether they know his phone number rather than employee number.
More tsks, hmms and snickers and they call their friend over from the other side of the room – a tall lanky gentleman who, for some unknown reason, is sitting on his own in a darkened office looking at the phone directory?? And for some other reason, this tall, lanky lonesman thankfully recognises the employee number of Mohammed mark 2 and he wanders off through the dark to look up the number in the directory for me.
In the meantime, you won’t believe it… I get a call from another Mohammed. I don’t know where he is from or how he got my number, but he kindly confirms that I do actually require Mohammed mark2 to get this resolved. I weakly squeak “can’t you just let me out” to which he replies, only Mohammed has the authority!
So I hang up from Mohammed mark 3 and return to the lanky lonesman who has miraculously located Mohammed mark 2’s number. I thank him profusely and begin to walk away to make the call. His other two friends appear to be starting to pity me as one of them suggests that I might like to make the call while they are there “in case I need any help!!!!” I have a little internal chuckle, as perhaps a bit of help in the first instance might have resolved this issue by now…. I plough ahead with phoning the top Mohammed.
He is very lovely and says he would be happy to authorise letting me out of the carpark. All I must do is confirm my registration number.
This is a rental car, and given that I wasn’t aware I would be needing the registration today, I had not taken that step of jotting it down in case I got locked in a carpark. So I explain to the big Mohammed that I don’t know the number. He kindly tells me to call him when I get the car to the exit and he will authorise with the guard.
Once again, thanking him profusely, I head to the car. The now 3 ‘helpers’ walk some of the way with me, perhaps feeling excited there appears a resolution in site or perhaps just keen to get rid of me.
Nervously I head down the ramp towards the exit. I pull up to the security booth and proceed to call big Mohammed and then it hits me – what if he doesn’t answer? Who is this guy and who can I tell the guard has provided authority? Surely ‘big Mohammed’ won’t cut it? I start to sweat as I pray that he answers the phone when miraculously, it picks up.
I dutifully hand the phone to the guard, some magic words are spoken and he nods his head and hands the phone back. The boom gate is up.
As I start to drive off he mutters… “the gate was open anyway…”
And that is it. A good 45mins of my life wasted with utter nonsense and an inability for anyone to operate outside of their apparently clear and distinct direction that “only Mohammed can let someone out of the carpark”, when even the guy at the boom gate doesn’t care.
If you multiply this scenario by 100, you start to form some kind of understanding of why people who live here can get a little frustrated from time to time. This is a pretty accurate snapshot of just one interaction among many, many interactions that can happen in any one week, or indeed any one day. It would actually be an interesting exercise to tally up the total amount of hours wasted on crazy nonsense that leads no-where.
And I totally get it… there are clear lines of authority and hierarchy here, and if you don’t follow those lines, you will end up in trouble, possibly even without a job. Without a job here, you have no visa which means no right to stay. It is a precarious balance which unfortunately means that there is no such thing as empowerment in decision making or thinking outside the box.
Still, things get done eventually… cars get out of carparks, phones get connected, bills get sorted… everything seems to have a way of working out. It just takes lots of deep breaths, lots of eyelash fluttering and sometimes the odd passport copy rf letter from the hubby. Take it in your stride and life can be good.
Now, I’m off to hit my head against the wall for a moment before I collapse into bed and dream about a world without hierarchy – sweet dreams!