Saturday, February 23, 2008

Elbow room

I haven't posted for 8 days. That's a veritable drought for me even if no one out there has noted my absence. I thought our little excursion to watch a Motocross race today would inspire me. No such luck. We all came home dusty, coughing, a little bit deaf, and wondering not how long we could do without water in a desert, but how long we could do without entertainment.

So instead of reading about motorcycles, you get to read about compound life.

At first when we got here, I thought, "This is great. All of us together, bonding, sharing, helping each other out. This is truly what a community should be." I was waxing philosophically (is there any other way to wax?) about how much better off the world would be if we could reach out to each other like this, learn to lean on each other, pick up our neighbor's slack, be that shoulder to cry on, have an open-door policy that just lets the love flow in and out.

But here's what I've learned about myself in the last 7 weeks: I don't like people all that much.

For the past few days, I've had my doorbell turned off. And the door itself? It's locked. And not for safety reasons. Heck no. I've honestly never felt safer than I do living in Doha. But having other people's children run in and out of my house all day? Not safe for them, if I have to confess. I'm the grumpy lady in number #18. Run away! Run away!

It's not just children that have me feeling claustrophobic. It's adults. And it's nothing personal. These are all perfectly nice people, but nice gets cloying after a while. Even the nicest of you out there have to admit that. Don't you get tired of smiling? Aren't there days you want to walk out of your house and just not have to go to the effort of lifting up the edges of your mouth? Sure, it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. We all know that. But to just be ambivalent to the people around you? It's pretty easy and gives all of your facial muscles a break.

Does this make me a bad person? Admitting this? I would like to argue that it makes me an honest person. And I thought honesty was the best policy. Best means better than everything else. Better to admit I like staying holed up in my house than to pretend I'm in the mood to socialize. And besides, I've never said I was a nice person. Again. It's about honesty.

I just could never live this way on a long-term basis. One family has been here for 3 years and have 4 more years on their contract. How? Not how can they survive in a small Middle Eastern country, far, far from home. But how can they survive living in such close quarters with 54 other families? Is this what apartment-complex living is like? I'm thinking no. Because in an apartment complex, people don't always see you coming and going. They don't see when your car drives into the garage and when it drives back out. And they all live separate lives. Here? Half the families work for the university system, the other half for the oil companies. And they're all ex-pats, so who else do they have but each other? Who else do we have but each other? So, I know I should embrace this sort of lifestyle.

But the thing is, I have bad days. I have days when, if you ask me how I'm doing, I really just want to say, "Pretty crappy. And you?" Or better yet, I want to just walk away and ignore you. Again, it's nothing personal. Compound life just doesn't accommodate bad days.

And what's the source of these bad days? Do you not realize "American Idol" is getting close to the final 12 and I'm going to miss all of it? Every song, every tear, every insult, every bad hairdo? Do you SEE what happens to a person when they can't get American television? And doesn't "Dancing with the Stars" start soon? What about "So You Think You Can Dance?" And all I get is Motocross.


Brigid said...

You like So You Think You Can Dance?? Crikey, we could have been talking about that all summer. I had no idea.

Bobbie said...

I like anything that involves talent competitions, as long as the people really are talented. Throw in a few tears and judges that scream and I'm hooked.