Friday, November 6, 2009

Don’t try this at home

I’m not saying this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

On the other hand, it’s certainly not up there with remembering the principal products of Brazil in 4th grade or deciding not to see if my dad’s Lincoln Continental could do 120 mph on a Pennsylvania country road.

Picture the scene.

I’m walking down a side street from my apartment in an ethnic neighborhood in central Riyadh heading to a small laundry run by a Bangladeshi. It’s about 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m holding three sizeable bags of laundry ranging from bedsheets to shirts, so picture the bags pretty full and formless.

About a block and half away I see an SUV fishtailing out of a parking spot, or maybe another side street, and heading in my direction.

Now, I’m not sure I can explain why the next thing happened. Let’s just say that having been here approximately two months now, I’m feeling like I have certain rights to walk safely down the street like any other resident. Let’s also say I was in a cranky mood and hadn’t had my afternoon nap.

What I do is I step out in the middle of the street and start waving my laundry bags in the air…at the approaching SUV driver.

In truth, unlike certain governments who don’t like to see major industries fail, I cannot say I had a bail out plan. All I know is that I’m waving these three white plastic bags and yelling down the street some kind of gibberish like “Hey, what are you doing driving like that, you madman!” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a question so I’m not going to bother putting the correct punctuation there.

I see the black SUV coming toward me, but he’s stopped fishtailing and the next thing I know is…he’s come to a stop, about three-quarters of a block away.In my mind’s eye of memory, I believe I saw the vehicle as though it were out of some Ferdinand the Bull episode, with the SUV sort of paused, snorting, preparing to disembowel me and leave bedclothes and button-down shirts scattered amongst the stray cats and poorly parked cars.

I am now replaying that memory as a reality check to see if what happened next really happened. I’m pretty sure of it.

What happened was that the driver executed a neat right-hand turn, slowing down as he did so, smiled and…flashed me the Hawaiian “hang loose” gesture.

I could see that it was a 20-something Saudi in Western-style dress—that’s how close I was.

I flashed him a hang-loose in return and off he went.

I guess the laundry is mightier than the sword.


  1. A cool story, Jim - with a happy ending! It could have spelled disaster for you - I'm glad it didn't!

  2. Thanks Susie. Never underestimate the power of bedsheets.

  3. Hi,

    I agree with Susie. I'm glad he was just weird and not some religious fanatic.
    lol@ "never underestimate the power of bed sheets". You really are funny.


  4. lol.. a laugh again! But was he thinking u were drunk or something... they do a hand gesture like that t show someone has been drinking and is drunk!

    Why have I never seen this blog before!!! Veryy funny!

  5. Hi Om...I just saw your comment since I don't always go back and check comments on older items. Your idea makes sense: he might have thought I was drunk or crazy. Given the difficulty of obtaining the former here, I'm voting for the latter about myself.