Friday, December 13, 2013

Hammer Smashed Face

I have had some wacky adventures in my time, dear sexy readers.  Regular followers of this erstwhile blog have heard me wax poetically about sunsets at the Acropolis, New Years Eve ragers on the pristine beaches of Boracay, trekking through Burma, having philosophical conversations about the universe on the banks of The Congo River, and surviving random violent protests in assorted countries.  Now that I have moved to Cairo, I am sure such stories will continue onward and upwards (or downwards I suppose, depending on one's point of view) but the one common thread remains: random acts of madness always seem to swirl around the Rage Cage (patent pending), and usually not the good, sexual tension infused moots which often lead to pillow fights or Karaoke sessions at Russian bars, but more the types that end up with large objects hurtling towards my beautiful face.

This, then, is a story of the latter type:  the kind that almost lead to my annihilation, or at least a severe bruising to my meal ticket.  It isn't the first time I have risked the integrity of my beautiful, star crossed visage, but it was definitely the most visceral.

So, sit back, dear readers, and I will tell you the story of the (nearly) Hammer Smashed Face.  And I do not mean the song, of course.  Although it kicks ass:

But I digress.

Anyway, it all started about a month ago.  I came home after a long day of confiscating cell phones, enforcing the dress code, helping kiddos open their lockers, and explaining to parents why talking in class incessantly is, in fact, a behavioral issue and not a social convention.  I had three goals in mind upon arriving to my luxury admin apartment (now with two plates!):  sit in my recliner, watch Big Bang Theory, and order from Otlob (which is one of the greatest, and potentially health shattering, services I have encountered in my time abroad: dozens of restaurants, delivered to your door, and ordered over the internet!  The mind reels.)

I settled in when, from upstairs, a loud banging was heard.  It soon increased its fervor, reverberating through the cinder block skeleton of the building.  This was quickly joined by a dull thrumming, some drilling noises, more hammering, and then that sweet, sweet sound which is made by 5 idiots dragging a heavy piece of furniture clockwise over a hard wood floor directly overhead.

"Mmmmmm," thought I sexily, "That could be annoying.  Well, it's 6 now, maybe they'll stop soon."

Three hours later, with the rage swirling inside me, I stormed upstairs.  I banged on the door, to no response.  I could hear voices and hammering from inside, however, so pounded again.  The time the door opened a crack.  A face peered out at me and immediately started yelling in Chinese.

Of course, being the culturally sensitive world traveling type that I am, I opened the door, walked inside their apartment, and shouted "What the hell is wrong with you people?!  It's 8 at night!  Shut up!"

This did not have the desired effect.  In the apartment I saw 7 other Chinese men, all shirtless, smoking, and sitting on the floor applying hammers to a large wooden frame.  The furniture had all been moved to the walls, leaving the middle space completely empty, except for the object of their attentions, which turned out to be frames for the windows.

If they had been building this I would have been much less displeased.

Needless to say, they were not happy to see me.

Oddly enough, in a way this whole thing took me full circle because when I lived in Taiwan, in both of the apartments I had upstairs neighbors who were always whipping out tools at 10 or 11 at night and hammering/sawing away.  In fact, it got to be so ingrained in my psyche that, to this day, when I hear the sound of screws falling on the floor above my head, I can feel my blood pressure skyrocket.

So, to make an already unwieldy story mercifully shorter, we had a bit of a row and they agreed to stop in five minutes.  Of course, this five minutes was another hour or so long, but I have learned to accept the Quantimic view of time that other cultures seem to thrive on.

All was well, for about a week.  That blissful time felt like this:

Awesome, but with a hint of foreshadowing.

Then, one fateful day, I came home and they were at it again.  For the next four nights at around 7 pm it would begin: a cacophony of banging, hammering, yelling, and the sound of the damn couch sloshing back and forth across the floor like a fat man in a scooter at a My Little Pony Convention.  They took two days off, much to my relief, and then, the following Tuesday, there it was: the hammering and shaking returned, louder than ever.

After about 10 minutes of listening and grinding my teeth I headed upstairs.  This time our doorman (boab, to use the local nomenclature) followed me up- his spidey senses must have been tingling.

I kick (yes, kick, for those keeping score at home) the door, then push it open.  There were my neighbors again, shirtless, smoking cigarettes, this time surrounding what looked like a table about 15 feet long.  They actually had a circular saw up there, in addition to lots of random piles of nails and other bits and bobs.

So, needless to say, I am a bit angry at his point.

One of the men grabs my arm and tries to push me out of the apartment.  I wave him away and step further inside.  My conflict resolution skills were on full, stunning display.

"Stop.  Stop!  People live here, you assholes!  Do this during the day, you idiots!"

One man looks up from the pile, his eyes blistering with either hate or manly construction hormones.


"Every day you're doing this!  Bang bang bang!  So loud!  Every day!"

The same man grabbed a hammer and got up.

He yelled as he rushed towards me.

"Every day?!  Every day?!"

Then, without warning, he starts swinging the hammer with a mad look in his eyes.

Pretty much just like this.

Luckily, before he can make contact with my awesome face, two of his roommates grab him and the boab pulls me back, out of the doorway.  From the ground the man starts screaming and cursing in Chinese, pointing at me with the hammer.

Shaken, I walk back down the stairs.  The boab stays up top and from my apartment I hear shouting in Chinese, Arabic, and possibly Klingon.  After a few minutes he comes back down and tells me that he is very sorry, and it won't happen again.

Ten minutes later I get a call from my landlord, apologizing and also promising that it will not happen again.

After an hour there is a knock at my door and I open it to find two policemen outside.  They actually took down my statement (which surprised me because my only previous encounter with the po po here had been  breaking curfew doing airport pick up runs) and also apologized before asking for tea.  One of the cops explained the reasoning for the man's violent outburst and attempted facial maiming:

"You said they had been disturbing the building every day, but it had only been five out of the last seven days."

So, yes, the life of an expat is not always easy, dear reader.  But, never fear.  I will leave you on a good note- this is a pic taken at The Virginian, which is my new favorite bar in Cairo.  It is both dingy and magnificent at the same time, kind of like Iggy Pop during the last decade.

Serenity now, indeed.

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