The first thing to note is that this story happens prior to Oblivious in Dubai: Parts One and Two.
The order in which you read the stories is irrelevant.
Those two stories happened to me as a direct result of the day recounted below.
First flight home from the sand, ever. Only three and a half long months ago did I land there for the first time.
It seemed like the hub of Asia. The hub of the world.
I’d booked a moderately adequate hotel room on Expedia for the layover.
I was fortunate to have a colleague on the same flight to Dubai. We landed at the Dubai International Airport in the early morning.
The first thing in sight was Duty-Free.
- Two bottles of water
- 6 Corona for good measure
I pay; wait for my luggage, then walk outside to hail a cab.
[SKIP 45 MINUTES in lieu of cab-ride]
Arrive at hotel; check in; 1/2 bottle of scotch; shower; fellow-Canadian comes over; scotch gone.
There’s a bar across the street; lets go play pool and drink heavily.
We were the only white folks in the place. It was cool to be a minority for a little while.
We eat and begin drinking Budweisers.
To my right; a family eating. To my left; a table of jolly fellows utilizing a hookah – sometimes called a “water-pipe”. The white clouds of smoke smelled like licorice. I made that face where one tilts their head to the side and does sort of an an upside down smile with eyebrows raised.
A positive, friendly, “fuck-it that-looks-neat” type of smile.
He handed me the mouthpiece; I inhaled. BRILLIANT! This is spectacular!
I continue the positive-neat-nod-smile thing.
Then I tip my finger to the waiter; point at the huge water pipe; and continue the “fuck that looks neat” smile as I nod and point at myself. He brings over a fresh water pipe; places a hot coal on top of the tinfoil covered bowl.
I wasn’t sure why he did that.
As I later came to understand – damp flavoured tobacco; or perhaps molasses; was packed tightly beneath the tinfoil – vaporizing under the coals.
We continued to order beer as we smoked and drank. Ultimately we did make it to the pool table.
He smoked me; I’m terrible at billiards.
We drank a lot of beer while I got my ass handed to me at pool. Soon enough its 7:30; he flies out at 10:30. Time to start getting his shit together.
I fly out at 7AM the following morning. What to do for the rest of the evening?
We cross the street into the lobby of my hotel. What’s that over there? I see two neon lights and two doors.
In the bright neon lettering above each door; Belly Dancers read one; Thai Dancers read the other.
Really? No way.
Shit like this doesn’t exist in the world; does it?
We make a quick trip upstairs so he can grab his things.
We go back downstairs and he leaves in his cab.
I approach, open, and enter the door marked Belly Dancers. It was exactly what it said on the door – about 7 or 8 Indian women shaking their bellies on a little stage.
There is a really large and middle-aged Middle Eastern man sitting on one side of the room; and a really large additional Middle Eastern man on the other. A few folks tending the bar.
This is greasy.
Fuck it – I’m nineteen years old and hammered and Canadian. What could possibly go wrong?
As long as I’m polite; shit will be all right. I sit down; the music is loud; too loud. But there are peanuts on every table – so I had that going for me.
I wave frantically at the people by the bar. A lady comes over and I just mime like I’m drinking a beer.
She gets it.
I sit in this dingy shit-hole drinking what seemed like an unending supply of Budweiser cans. I truly have no idea how many I drank.
At some point; I got up, stumbled to the bathroom and vomited profusely for a little while. Once I’d found my bearings; and with puke all over my shirt; I walked past the bar employees and stuck up that just-a-minute finger that people do.
- Hotel Room
- One bottle of water
- Change shirt
- Vomit more accurately
- Second bottle of water
I continue with the Budweiser and salted peanut combination for quite a while.
Eventually when I get up to leave:
- I have no idea how many beers I owed them for
- I have no idea how many salted peanuts I had eaten
- Nor do I have any idea how much money I have
I’m fully aware that I’m about to be financially taken advantage of.
Fuck it, as long as I’m polite.
I asked how much I owed, but the music was loud as hell – perhaps that was their strategy.
They ended up with some number on a calculator; it was a HUGE number.
Now, I know the basic equation to translate how many US green-backs make up which amount of Dirhams. Unfortunately they priced it in Dirhams.
Couldn’t do it backwards and all I had was American – never was good at division.
I opened my wallet and gave them most of the cash.
It was kind of like a mugging but very formal and polite.
They were clearly also from a polite country; though one with an obscure culture in which polite and gentle mugging is commonplace.
Oh right… the other neon sign.
I open the bar door marked Thai and it was exactly what it said on the door; except there were hundreds of people in a kind of mini-auditorium.
Perhaps twenty-five Thai women on stage.
This has got to be illegal. How can things like this exist in the world?
Baffled and hammered; I take a seat beside the door with my back in a chair against the wall – safe mode.
As long as I’m polite.
Somehow I’m holding a beer.
A SUN BEAM LANDS ON MY FACE
How did I get here?
- Clothes – check
- Wallet – check
- Keys – check
- Passport – check
- Smokes – check
- Boots on…
- Hotel-room door wide-open
- SUN SHINING ON MY FACE – I MISSED MY DAMNED FLIGHT
- Aw fuck…
Picked up the phone – hit “0” for the front desk:
“Call me a cab now!
Please and thank you.
And I ate some Skittles and a Mars bar…
I think it comes to 27 Dirhams?
Tell you what; I’ll bring down a twenty (USD)
I barrel across the hall and into the elevator; hit the button for the lobby.
Run to the front desk.
I glance; sort of ashamed and sort of amazed; at the unlit neon signs from the night before.
I drop the twenty and run for the door.
“Taxi will be 5 minutes, sir.” from behind the front-desk.
Fuck! What a twist. This should be interesting.
Dubai in the morning sun; a testament to manufactured beauty. Built from an empty desert.
The hub of the world.
Traffic is bad; I accept the fact I’ve missed my flight. I ask if I can smoke – driver says no.
It’s at this point I can taste the scotch in my throat and the Marlboro tar in my lungs. Absolutely delicious – the midnight snack of champions and scholars.
We get to the airport terminal and there are thousands of people everywhere. I’m from rural Canada – I’ve never even fathomed this much… stuff… in one place.
I get out; load my bags on the airport-cart. You know? That cart you use at the airport.
I run in to the airport and try to check in for my flight as the attendants embraced my smoky-Scottish aroma.
Flight’s boarded; door shut.
HER: You’re going to have to go talk to that man over there, sir.
ME: Thank you very kindly for your help, ma’am.
Now I’ve never been a good negotiator; but the kind elderly gentleman at the desk helped me after I explained my predicament – politely.
As long as I’m polite; things will be all right.
A lot can be gleaned from simply being polite to strangers.
After half-an-hour of this man going-to-bat for my poor, stupid-ass self – he had my three flights “changed” to three other flights.
Beginning at 2AM the next night/morning – for $90.
I was now the very lucky owner of an entire day in Dubai; all to myself.
All I needed was a shower.
To Be Continued…