This little ditty is paraphrased from a chapter in AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURES OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN, Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY (2009)...with a few extra thoughts... After a bit of reflection on the subject, this is my last turn; my very last burn...I promise. |
It took me several days to get settled into my apartment in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). See, I didn't get much of a chance to decompress; get acquainted; check the lay-of-the-land. I arrived on an Air France flight from the US via Paris about 5:30 PM, cleared Customs about an hour later, and took a taxi to the Al Khozama Hotel. I figured I'd get a good night's sleep and leisurely put together strategic marketing plan with Amr over the next few days and find lodging for a four-month stay. Turned out my figuring was faulty. Business intervened.
Thomas, the Indian driver for Amkest, collected me at ten the next morning, and delivered me to the corporate offices of Amr Khashoggi, chairman of Amkest. So far, so good. But then my plan to ease into the flow got rearranged. Amr received a call just before I arrived from the chairman of Yusuf Bin Achmed Kanoo, a transoceanic shipping company based in Dhahran. The Kanoo big chese wanted me to visit that very day so I jumped on an ancient, wheezing, Saudi Arabian Air L-1011 and made my first business trip in KSA.
I returned to Riyadh too late that evening for apartment hunting, but in my absence, Amr was thoughtful enough to tend to that detail for me. He even had my belongings collected and moved from the hotel. What a guy! Anyway, upon returning from Dhahran, Thomas dropped me at my new apartment located in the Al Khozama Center, which was adjacent to the hotel and connected via a second floor breezeway. Businesses and restaurants occupied the first two floors of the Center, and apartments from floors three through twelve. Floors thirteen and fourteen contained a first-class athletic club with courts for tennis and basketball on the roof. My flat was on the fifth floor, plus I retained privileges for the Al Khozama Hotel.
In case you're wondering, the number thirteen is not a big deal in Islam. Our "Christian" superstition comes mainly from Friday the thirteenth when French king, Philippe the Fair, and his lackey the Pope rounded up the Knights Templar for torture and execution. Story is the Templars were too wealthy and powerful for their own good.
The one-bedroom, mostly white, airy, beautifully-furnished, apartment was tres chic with a full kitchen, maid service, a spacious balcony, and a large fruit bowl that was replenished weekly. By the way, the "maids" were men since women are not permitted to work in the Kingdom. Turned out I was the first occupant of unit 512. There was only one item within the flat that made me pause. In the bathroom next to the commode was a bidet. Now being an international traveler I was used to bidets, but this was Saudi Arabia, and occupancy for these apartments was restricted to males only. What the hell was I supposed to do with a bidet? By fooling around with the faucets I discovered the center water jet could compactly bubble-up about three feet---a freaking geyser. I guess it could be used as a drinking fountain...but that sounded messed up. The faithful are supposed to perform ablutions (foot bathing) before prayer... Maybe that was the intended use.
Then I started thinking.
Many bathrooms in Islamic countries are simply a hole in the floor where one either aims through (for a squirt) or squats over (to drop a deuce). For the latter, a small hose is tethered nearby for hydraulic colon cleansing. Toilet paper may or may not be provided. One Navy pilot acquaintance, not knowing how to squat properly, missed the hole and deposited a septic log smack into his dropped trousers. Now that's a novel and unique way to crap your pants!
However, in KSA restrooms including those in offices like Amkest, standard porcelain thrones are provided with BOTH hose and toilet tissue.
Eureka! Since the custom is to douche one's sphincter, the bidet had to be for use after a daily deuce deposit; you know, for that fresh, clean-as-all-outdoors feeling.
Speaking of that fresh feeling, I once heard a young lady say to her female companion, "I don't feel so fresh." I wanted to remark (but didn't) that would explain the flock of seagulls following her. But now, thanks to my very own personal bidet, I too could have that cool-as-a-breeze, spring-like confident feeling. At long last I would no longer have to worry about the opalescent bloom of dingle berries ruining my day or causing me embarrassing sideways looks from my fellowman.
I gave the bidet a long look. Maybe I'd give it a test drive after my next morning sit-down. I noticed, like a bathtub, it had both hot and cold water taps feeding the central outlet. There was also a metal drain plug. What was the thinking with that? Why would anyone want to collect either vaginal or anal residue solution? Excuse me, sir, I must have this ass water analyzed. Hey! maybe that's where the word "anal" came from.
Next morning I woke with a start. It was still dark, the sun just beginning to peek over the eastern horizon. The "alarm" was the azan, the Islamic call to prayer" God is greater (than anything you can name)...I testify there is no other god but God...I testify that Mohammed is his messenger...Hurry to prayer...Rush to success...Prayer is better than sleep...God is greater...There is no other god but God. Of course, the azan is always in Arabic. It sounded like the intonation was close enough to be coming from inside my flat so I walked onto the balcony and found the source: an ornate mosque a mere twenty meters away. Mystery solved. I watched the faithful from the surrounding area walk toward and into the mosque. Reminded me of a vacuum cleaner. Men were dressed identically, and women were dressed identically. Only God could tell one from the other.
Here I'm going to pause in my narrative to offer some advice. I've noticed during my travels that (frequently) Americans have notoriously poor manners when traveling abroad. Figure everyone else should adapt to them. I'm sure many of the insults are unwitting and unintended, but even after returning home they propogate improper terms (even writing them in newspapers) because it's just too damned time-dragging to worry about "exact" terms, and everyone knows what they mean anyway (they claim with irritation). So, chill dammit, they conclude, I have more important things with which to occupy my mind like American pop-culture BS. What triggered this thought was recalling the mode of dress of the Saudi Arabians.
On the Arabian peninsula (all of it) women DO NOT wear burkas. The garment is called an abaya, which is black and covers them head-to-toe. Across the Persian Sea the garment is referred to as chador. Finger tips are visible. The veil that covers their faces is solid black, but finely-meshed to permit visibility.
Men wear thobes, white garments that have the features of both shirts and slacks, which descend to their shoe tops. Professional men normally have their thobes dry-cleaned. Under the thode is a white T-shirt and white slacks. On their heads they wear ghuttras that (in KSA) are either red-and-white checked or solid white. Underneath the ghuttra is a white skullcap, the name of which I forget. Men also wear a particular, distictive cologne that has a pleasing scent.
DO NOT mispronounce their names; DO NOT cross your legs so that the soles of your feet point at someone; DO NOT hand over objects with your left hand; DO learn enough Arabic to exchange greetings; and when passing through a doorway, DO allow the person on the right to go first.
If you follow these little gems of wisdom and have a polite attitude you'll get along just fine. The people are open, welcoming, and have a fine sense of humor.
Islam follows Mosaic Law in diet, and heed Abraham's call for circumcision. Pigs and pork products are not permitted in KSA. There's a story that a Bedouin displeased with his wife walked into their tent carrying a sheep. He said, "This is the pig I sleep with when I'm not with you." His wife replied, "That's a sheep, you idiot!" The man answered, "I wasn't talking to you!"
Back to the subject at hand... I walked into the bathroom for my morning routine and stared at the bidet. I greeted it Aussie-style (g'day bidet) because the timing of the syllables seemed cool. Should I or shouldn't I? I wondered about the native men using such a device if they had the "call" when fully clothed. Let's see, you'd have a fellow on the throne with undies and pants around his ankles while holding up a garment with a three-foot long shirttail. To hop over to the bidet he'd have to shuffle, hold up the thobe, and keep the sphincter puckered. Quite a complicated operation! That day I decided to pass the hemorrhoid hose-down, and stick to my regular routine.
Several mornings later after I'd spent an evening at a Pakistani buffet with Asif, a tennis partner, I awoke to the pangs and rumblings of an oncoming and urgent intestinal tsunami and blow-out of immense proporations. I had to step lively (and veerryy carefully), but I made it in time. Geez, what a racket! And OMG, what a relief. As I sat panting I looked to my immediate left. "G'day bidet." No answer.
Well, why not? This was as good a time as any so I hopped on over. I had to be careful with the hot and cold settings. I mean, too hot, and...I just cauterized those babies! Too cold, and I'd receive the sensation of being goosed by an ice cycle. Too much pressure would result in an unexpected and unwelcomed enema. Never a pleasant experience except (maybe) if one was of an alternate sexual persuation.
As I sat there enjoying the strange sensation of a cleansing bunghole bath, I imagined what a tool a bidet would be for a flammer. Oh goody, hydraulic cornholing! Why he'd be able to get off at both ends simultaneously. I can see it now: Guy's in there panting and moaning when the doorknob starts to turn. Dude starts wondering in a sweaty panic: Did I or didn't I lock the door?
Voice from the other side says, "Hey! What the hell's going on in there? What's all that noise? You're taking a long time!"
"I-I-I'll be out in j-just a m-minute." Beads of sweat on forehead from effort, ecstacy, and almost getting caught.
As I laughed aloud, the azan sounded and jerked me out of my humorous visual.
I decided to put on my gym duds and head up the elevator to the athletic club. And, by the way, I really felt clean and refreshed.
Copyright 2009 by Gene Myers author of AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURES OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN, Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY (2009); www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AfterHours.html
New from Gene Myers: SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE, PublishAmerica, Baltimore, MD (2010)
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