APB for Every Dream

My room service is late.

Normally I’m very forgiving of these things, but this city-state is unforgiving to me so why should I be polite, even? The whole place is facocked. And I can hear room service carts rolling down my hall, but they don’t stop for me. (I feel Emily Dickinson rolling over in her grave when I mind-cry “DEATH?!?”)

I don’t even order room service normally but I couldn’t do another breakfast in that restaurant. No sir. As I was telling my mother via email (my only form of communication available to me) the restaurant is cleverly segregated. The hostess seats the women in a wrap-around section behind and to the side of a wooden divider, which gives the waiters some kind of justification for ignoring them. Us. Me. Low visibility, perhaps?
And I make no exaggeration when I say it took 18 minutes for them to decide whether they should offer me coffee or tea. I knew from the day before that everyone gets their own cafetière. Yesterday, however, it’s like they took someone’s half-used press and gave me a cup of tepid pee-water. For a country situated in a part of the world notorious for coffee like mud and devil’s blood, everything tastes surprisingly like Nescafé and piss. Or maybe it really is just a permanent bad taste in my mouth.

My room service arrived with one hesitant knock on the door. 19 minutes late. Keep in mind I’ve worked in hotels for almost three years, so I know all the shit people pull. There are differences between being lazy/busy and being an asshole. Also, I grant them several minutes difference based solely on cultural time relativity. If we were in Germany or the Low Countries or, ok, mostly anywhere on the Continent except Spain (I posit,) that shit would’ve been on my doorstep by 8:45, if not the original 8:30 I asked for. So their shit’s slow.
But this waiter dude in my room, first I had to invite him in. Then I had to tell him where to put the tray. Then I had to allow him to unfurl my newspaper. And please, press my coffee plunger. Please pour me a cup. Please, go all OCD and center the various jams in their respective containers. Here’s money. Like, a lot of it. Twenty dirhams because your life might suck more than mine. Please leave. Thank you for letting me take my aggression out on you, poor Filipino waiter. Go back to join the ranks of your non-unionized brethren. Someone has to scrub the solidified egg yolk off my plate and it certainly won’t be an Arab.

I either feel like some privileged white rich asshole or else I am a second-class ghost whose drink orders get ignored unless the men at the table remind the waiter I’m there. (Cue: last night.) There’s no middle ground. It’s progressive, it’s not progressive. Either way, I hate it. I was telling my boss over (watery) (overpriced) bourbon last night that I can’t wait to get back to New York where, if people ignore me, it’s because they choose to do so and not because it’s indoctrinated. I can’t wait. I leave late tomorrow night. And then I’m promptly fleeing to the safety of my parents’ household with our fuzzy dogs to squeeze and familiar smells and things that haven’t changed in over two decades.
This place didn’t even exist 20 years ago.
It literally sprang up out of the desert into some futuristic nightmare. Because it’s so business-oriented, it’s like living in a series of office buildings.

Dubai smells natural, though. And it’s clean. I give it that. It’s like oud and rose and cumin and sweat and sun-hot steel. You can’t smell the water at all, where I can see women walking together in their abayas. They must get really dirty on the bottom.

As for it being clean, we were marveling at the lack of graffiti until I remembered they would probably cut off both of your hands if you were caught. These things still happen. And yet, after these thousands of years, Hammurabi’s Law Code has proven surprisingly effective: rule your people with abject terror and cut off body parts for any infraction. You have yourself some civil obedience.

Everywhere is construction, construction, construction. American-made cranes swinging at all hours of the night, and more skyscrapers rising on every corner. Not that there are corners. There’s NO sense of urban planning here, since the streets (all unnamed) are narrow byways that turn traffic into a go kart race. You grip the seat of your $3 taxi ride and hold on.

My hotel is an example of Emrati craftsmanship.
Oh wait. Gotta go downstairs to do something for my boss.
Um. Hold that thought.


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