Wednesday, June 07, 2006

my own big brother moment

For those who don't know, I now have a cell phone in Cairo. If you're calling from the states, it's: 011201055451. From Cairo, it's: 0101055451.

I bought my cell phone (In the Middle East, Arabs and foreigners alike refer to them as 'mobiles' and pronounce it in the British style) two days ago at Radio Shack. That's right, Radio Shack. One of the perks of western cultural infiltration is that it allows one to read very funny transliteration of English into Arabic. I've also eaten at a McDonald's and a Pizza Hut. For the record, I intend to switch entirely to local foods soon, but I'm trying to pace myself and avoid what I will euphemistically refer to as stomach problems and other ailments that most westerners experience upon their arrival in Egypt. But back to Radio Shack. The cell phone I settled on is a slick Sony Ericsson which ran me about 80 bucks (400 Egyptian pounds). The salesman, a slight 5'10" Egyptian with a soft, undemanding demeanor, said I had made a good choice. A strange comment, I thought, seeing as he had been the one to point it out. But no matter. Riding on the euphoria that can only come from being told you have good taste by someone who you are paying, I approached the cash register. I asked about warranty. He said it was a year, free of charge. I asked him to let me hear the alarm (my cell is my only clock here). It was loud. I said 'I'll take it.' In a quiet, slightly accented voice he told me to wait a minute. From under the desk, he pulled out and began to fill in a form in Arabic. As my eyes wandered around the store (adapters, CD players, batteries) he asked, "Can I see your passport?" I had gone to the shop with my roommate Justin who lived in Egypt for a semester and had been here a week. The request didn't seem to bother him. I told the clerk that I didn't have my passport, but that I had a copy, which a proceeded to take out and put on the table. "That's all I need, he said." He filled in my passport information and did not return my copy. I proceeded to pay and walked out, a new cell phone in hand. "What happens to that copy of my passport?" I wondered.
This morning, I woke at around 9. I had had a rough night sleeping. Before going to bed, I'd gone to brush my teeth and found three cockroaches in or near the bathroom. The largest of the three (gargantuan, antennae an inch long) was under my toothpaste on the bathroom sink. If the problem isn't solved, I'll have to move. [When I was at an age between 8 and 12, I watched an episode of the X-Files where cockroaches were sent by aliens to study humans. In the episode, one cockroach would show up in a poorly lit scene. Suddenly hundreds would appear and burrow into an unsuspecting attendant or late night security guard or over-worked scientist. As is probably apparent by my mentioning it, the episode left an impression] After waking up, I walked into the living room and told my roommate about the previous evenings events. I brushed and watched my face. We talked about buying some Roach Motels. Suddenly (as I suppose it always is) I heard my mobile ringing from my bedroom. Strange. The only person I had given my number to in Cairo was my roommate, and it would have been about 3 am in the states. I didn't recognize the number on the phone, but unlike my girlfriend who is too busy and popular to pick up unknown numbers, I excitedly jumped at the opportunity and hit send. "Hello?" I said. In the background I could hear typing, and what sounded like a busy office. "Uh, you speak English?" a male voice responded in a gruff, thick, but understandable Egyptian accent. "Yeah, who is this?" I said. More typing in the background. "Thank you." The man promptly hung up. Big Brother, it appears, is listening.


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