The heat is enough to make you wonder if the cold and rain in England really was that bad. I still prefer the heat to the cold, but this is testing. I took my car to a local mechanic today. My wife (I hasten to add that it was not me) had a minor accident which took the front bumper near enough clean off. It does not cost much to haveminor bodywork done in Cairo. I had mine refitted for just LE80, which is about £10 by todays rates. Anyway I digress. The mechanic told me it would not take long and that I should wait. I waited. In the sun. Granted, it was under a tree but still – it was hot. After around 30 minutes I began to feel a little drowsy and made my way to a street-side vendor for a cold drink. I bought 3 Fayrouz Manga (Mmmmmm….manga – or mango if you no-speaka-da-lingo) downed mine in one gulp and gave the other two bottles to the workers.
“I need some screws, it will cost a fiver”. I gave him a fiver and he sent one of the boys up the road to get the screws. By now I was roasting. You can tell a foreigner a mile off. I’m an easy give-away because I’m black, but also because I was the only one that looked like I had just stepped out of the shower (with clothes on). I waited.
“I need to pray.” I agreed. I admit in the UK this would have seemed frustratingly slow, rude and unnecessary. Prayer in the UK has nothing to do with work and is not a valid reason to stop. I understand the need to pray as I pray too, but in the 15 years I worked in the City (London) it was never considered imperative to a client. I need to eat, or I need to rest, or I need to ANYTHING was more likely to gain you time off work. I needed to pray too so I followed him to the mosque We prayed. We finished. We returned. I waited.
By now I’m close to collapse. The tree I was sat under was offering some respite from the baking hot air (or lack of it) but in truth I didn’t even care about my car anymore I just wanted to go.
“I need a jack.”
A jack? (By the way most of this conversation is in sign language – my Arabic is still at the student stage). I got the jack out of the boot. I handed it over. They began to hoist the car up and take the wheel off to get a better angle at the bumper. I waited.
By the time they finished with the car I had taken at least 4 short naps, woken each time by my head hitting the bark of the tree. I lie. The fourth time is was a semi conscious dream that ants were walking on my face. I woke to find it a reality. The tree trunk was being used an ant dual carriageway and if you know ants, then you know how they navigate obstacles. At least it was some entertainment for the mechanic and his young helper. I’m from London – I don’t do bugs very well. For a full minute I resembled a person on fire, manically brushing and swiping ants off my face and arms whilst spinning round, tripping and bumping into everything. They laughed. I didn’t. I was done waiting. I thanked them and paid. Got in the car and turned the air-con on full blast. It blew out piping hot air. I drove off. I thought back to the mechanics and the ants and laughed to myself. I must have looked so silly. Still, I got my car fixed again. It was cheap even if I had to wait half the day for it.