Friday, February 15, 2008

Fast cars, loose women, and whiskey

That's what was written on the screen t-shirt S and O's tennis coach was wearing a week or so ago. Before we jump to conclusions about the irony of wearing it here in Doha, let's review:

(a) Fast cars. The speed limit on most roads here is 80km an hour. Don't make me do the conversion math. (Okay, it's about 50 mph.) For the longer stretches, the speed limit rises to 100km/hour. (Okay, that's roughly 62 mph.) And all along these stretches are big white boxes with cameras inside, waiting to take a picture of your license plate if you go over the limit. Then you don't get an actual ticket, you have to go online periodically to plug in your license plate number to see if you were caught. People have neglected to check and then have been stuck at the airport when customs pulls up their record: "Oops. You owe 30,000QR [again with the math! That's about $8,000]. Cash only, please." The fines placed on various offenses vary from ludicrous to astronomical. Yes, there are still plenty of fast cars flashing their lights at me and honking behind me, but not as many as there were just four months ago before the fines were instituted.

(b) Whiskey (yes, I'm skipping the loose women here for a moment). See my January 18 posting if you're dying for a recap. Otherwise, skip ahead.

(c) Loose women. Apparently, that's me. Just over a week ago, I was out shopping with the little guy at an area mall. We'd been to the grocery store and then he wanted a muffin, so we hung out at a Starbucks for a little bit. While we were there, a young Arabic man stopped by the table to (I really believed this) talk to Ivan. He was friendly and asked Ivan (still, I'm believing Ivan is the focus of attention here) to visit him at the store where he works after we were done. The guy walked away and Ivan hopped down from his chair. "I go see him," he said. So off we went. The guy (he'll have a name soon) hurried to the front of the store to talk to Ivan (not me, I'm still thinking), showing him a display of expensive miniature carousels. I stayed back a ways, just letting Ivan enjoy the attention. Then the guy (honest, his name is on the way) asks me if I've been there before. "To this mall?" I ask. "No. This store," he says. "No," I answer. "I feel I am very lucky today," he says. And I'm thinking, hm, a little enthusiastic now. Maybe he thinks I'm actually going to buy something.

So I take Ivan from him, although he doesn't want to hand him over. We say bye and we leave.

Five minutes later, Ivan and I are looking at headbands for E in a little shop down the hall. (I've skipped to present tense, haven't I?) Along comes the same guy and he calls to Ivan, who runs over to say hello. I glance over at him and then go back to looking at the headbands. The guy comes over to me and says, "I'm sorry, I don't know your name." "Bobbie," I answer. "Bobbie?" he says, struggling to say it correctly. "That is a beautiful name." (Okay, now the warning bells are sounding. I like my name, but I've never claimed it's a "beautiful" name.) "I am Mohammed." He then reaches out to shake my hand. I shake it, only realizing later that was a huge social taboo--his more so than mine. But then he doesn't let go. "I want to see you tomorrow," he says. "Tomorrow?" I ask. And honest to goodness, a part of me is still thinking, boy, he really likes Ivan, because, really, the last time someone flirted seriously with me was about 3 c-sections and 1 VBAC ago. So I say, "Um. We'll probably be back again, yeah." Then he kisses my hand and walks off with a grin on his face.

So I laughed all the way home, thinking, this guy (yes, he has a name, but I can't use Islam's prophet's name to talk about a flirting experience) is probably barely half my age! I wasn't flattered, just amused. I told Ron that these guys come here from other countries, but then they can't date really b/c no women from their countries are here. They get a little, uh, desperate for women and it turns into harmless flirting. Oh, how sad. We should feel sorry for them.

Then I was talking to another American woman yesterday who has lived in Doha longer than I have and lived in Kuwait before coming here. She was talking about how the men have treated her. I mentioned this incident, and she said that legally, it is within Ron's right to go back to the mall, pull the guy out of his shop, and beat the daylights out of him for daring to kiss my hand. A friend of hers has a grown daughter who was touched inappropriately by a man here. So the parents went to the police about it. "What do you want us to do?" the police asked. "We can imprison him for up to 3 years for this." All the parents and daughter wanted to do was talk to the guy, and the police didn't understand why they were pulled into the situation at all. "Doesn't she have a husband?" they asked. She did. "Well, he could have just found him himself and beaten him up."

This friend of mine said, "But they think they can get away with it, whether you're married or not, because we're loose women." And I had never thought of it like that.

Suddenly, I'm not so amused and definitely still not flattered. Here I was feeling sorry for this guy who had to resort to flirting with a 38-year-old mother of four.

And no, I didn't go back to see him. Just in case you doubt me enough to have to ask. But I'm thinking sending Ron back to see him might not be such a bad idea after all.


Brigid said...

That's incredible. I just can't imagine people being so forward. I'd be amused if you really did send Ron back to "have a talk" with him. Is Ron a big guy? Was Mohommed?

Bobbie said...

Ron's a big guy. Mohammed most definitely was not. But, more importantly, Ron's a grown man and Mohammed couldn't have been more than 19 or 20, dressed in a very metrosexual kind of way that just screamed, "I'm really trying here!"