Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Diary

It was mid-December and I haven't decided yet what I should do for Christmas. I remembered my first Christmas in the US which I spent with my gay friend and his lover, and that time I made a decision not to spend any Christmas in Arizona anymore. I bought a super-expensive ticket to Chicago to visit my sister there. Cool.

Next... Gifts, yes I gotta get some gifts... Let's see , I was overloaded with work from Dec 5th till the 23 rd with NO DAYS OFF at all. The only day when I could shop was the 24th, the day of my flight. My flight was scheduled at 6 pm, so I had some time to shop in the morning.

I woke up at 9, watched TV and played FIFA World Cup 2006 and won the cup again with Argentina, and this time I defeated Brazil 11-0 in the final. Although that was the 46th time that I win with Argentina, I am still celebrating everytime they win by kicking the sofa 12 repetitive times and jumping on my bed for 5 minutes and, occasionally, running to my patio and screaming "3aaaaaaaa" until my neighbor's dog starts barking. Now it's 11am and I'm really screwed because I had to drive to the airport in Phoenix and that takes 2 hours (unless you're drunk then it's 1 hour 15 minutes) and I still have to do my Christmas shopping. I took a quick shower and was about to leave, then I heard a knock on my door. It was my neighbor. I opened the door...

"Hi" she said, and the smell of beer spread across my apartment and filled it replacing the smell of the old rotten yogurt I bought in August and was too lazy to throw away.

She continued, "listen, I know you're going to Chicago, Chris (her boyfriend) is a crazy Chicago Bears' fan , he wants that Bears cap that Snoop dogg wears in his last video".

"How does the cap look like?"

"I don't know, I don't watch Snoop Dogg, but it's black and covered with red in the front and has a big red C on it, it's not orange, it's red, and the C is different from C in Cubs. Chris told me that cap looks naaaasty!"

"Do you know what's the video? I can check it on youtube"

"It has tam tam tana tana in it" then she started moving her head circumferentially.

"But there's like 5 million songs that have tam tam tana tana in them!"

"Let's google it"

I googled everything and went to the Chicago Bear's website and couldn't find the freakin cap she was talking about, and somehow I convinced her that the Chicago Bears made Snoop Dogg a special cap just for that clip.

"Now what should I get him for the new year? He loves the bears"

I felt sorry for her, so I searched ebay for the Bears products and found a T-shirt for their star Brian Urlacher with a print on it "Brian Urlacher will make you his bitch"!! She was sooooo happy when she found it and she bought it.

Now it was 12.30, I called my friend in Phoenix and he told me to come early so we can hang out together before the flight. I went to the Mall on my way and did my Christmas shopping in 20 minutes. I was in Phoenix by about 3.

I called my friend on his cell.... no answer.
I called again... wala eshi

I rang the bell of his house, nobody opened.
I was about to open the door and go check inside, but I remembered there was another guy living with him with a 3agel karaki who's never met me, and maybe if he sees me coming in like that he might grab his gun and shoot me in the face. Retrospecitvely I know now that he was sleeping. I did not come in. I called another friend, we had lunch then I headed toward the airport.

I was supposed to go to terminal 4 but I went to terminal 3 instead. I thought to myself "ma howeh kulhom terminals" . I parked there. I'm not sure if there's a longterm parking but if there was one I did not use it. I parked in the regular parking where they charge your ass 3 dollars an hour. I was short of time so I just parked and took my two carry-ons and left. I realized that when you're supposed to go to terminal 4, you need to park there. I had to take a bus to terminal 4 and that wasted a lot of time.

I arrived at the security check and stood in the line. My Arab paranoia started to kick in. I remembered that some airports in the US started to hire specialists in psychological profiling. These people observe the behavior of the passengers standing in security checkups and if they a strange behavior they'd take the passenger and search him very carefully and ask him a zillion questions. Just knowing that someone might be observing me made me nervous, and now I thought to myself, "I'm a young Arab male with an Arabic passport traveling on Christmas Eve, alone, not even carrying my passport or any of my work documents, and totally unshaven, add to that that my karsh gives the impression that I'm hiding four explosive belts. " I thought that if I was one of those who do psychological profiling I would definitely stop "me" and ask myself questions.

Then I remembered that I put my shaving razor inside my carry-on. Oops! Is that allowed? I didn't now and still don't know, but that just worsened my paranoia. I kept smiling and smiling and I was smiling even more that how much late Rafe3 Shaheen would smile for a female contestant. I passed through security in less than 30 seconds, no questions asked, no carry-ons opened or searched. My only thought was "these security people let me pass smoothly, they need some extra training".

I arrived at the gate at 6.25, my flight was scheduled to take off at 6.35 and yes it did. I was the last passenger to check in! I was totally surprised. It was a Southwest flight and on Christmas eve and still took off on time. In case you've never traveled Southwest, it works like the public buses, whoever gets in the plane first would sit where he likes, and it might stop on its way to drop and pickup passengers without changing planes. The flight went fine, except when I had to use their extremely tiny one restroom shared by the 150 passengers on the plane. I'll try not to be very graphic, but when a male is releasing his liquidish product of metabolism, he has to point well down to where it is supposed to land, and with all the turbulences during the flight nothing of that was possible. Looking at how the restroom looked like whenI went in, I was sure that at least five men had that same problem before me.

I arrived, it was nice to meet the family. Today was Christmas and we went to have the Christmas lunch at the house of my brother-in-law's aunt who lost her husband last month, so the whole family in Chicago (over 40 people) went to her house for lunch.

On the way there I asked my brother-in-law, "What should I tell them there, Merry Christmas or Yeslam Raasko (sorry for your loss)?

He replied," Say Merry Christmas, her husband died more than a month ago, and it's Christmas now, say Merry Christmas"

then my sister interrupted , "you should say Yeslam Raasko, because so far you haven't paid condolences and this is your first visit there, so we should say Merry Christmas but you're supposed to say Yeslam raasko"

then my brother-in-law said, "Listen habibi, people will greet you first, and they will say Merry Christmas first, so you can just reply back with Merry Christmas"

I was still confused about what to say, so when I got there I decided not to say anything. I just shook hands and nodded my head and made some sounds with my mouth with a lot of "Sh" and "S' and "e3" and believe me when you say these words in a low voice repetitively while nodding your head they would give the impression that you are saying real words of a greeting that the other person cannot hear. Surprisingly, you'll find the other person nodding his head and saying words that you cannot understand.

Then came a young man and handled me a cup of coffee (gahweh sadah), and the dilemma was whether or not I should shake the cup when I'm done and what to say, Merry Christmas or Yeslma Raasko. It shouldn't sound that bad except that there were all these men who I barely know watching me and I felt that if I made a mistake they'd be talking about it up until the next Christmas (and their wives would talk about it forever). The man who gave me the coffee stood next to me waiting for me to finish it. I drank the coffee really slowly, thinking of should I do. I thought about dropping that cup and breaking it and pretend it was an accident, but the floor was covered with carpet, it wouldn't break. Then, thank God, that man turned his head to he other side to look for something, and in the blinking of an eye I extended my hand to the nearby table and landed the cup of coffee there.

We had lunch, a damn good one, and just before I left the unbelievable happened again, another man came next to me and handled me another cup of coffee. I took the coffee, drank it, but this time the man did not leave or turn his head, he was standing in front of me as if he was saying ,"and now what will you do ya tabara?"

I drank the coffe, then looked at the man and handled him the cup as I was saying "esh" and "e3" and "ess" while nodding my head, gave him a smile, and then asked my brother-in-law about when are we going to leave.

I love Christmas :)


Anonymous said...

Hareega, so I am not the only one trying to figure out the proper thing to say and at holidays when there has been a death! Ha, and you are Jordanian!

Where are you in Chicago? We lived in the NW suburbs before Jordan. There is a Pita Inn restaurant in Palatine that has Hashmi Shmemali hummous!

Anonymous said...

My cousin once was leaving from a 3aza and she said "for9a sa3eede" to the dead man's wife.

Anonymous said...

That was a funny read Hareega :) .. and I still find it hard to believe that one can do any kind of shopping in "20" minutes !!!
and I agree with you on those ""Sh" and "S' and "e3"" mumble sounds .. I do that on different occasions :D and no one even notice what I am saying ! .. tells you how much we LISTEN ! ..
Eah .. yalla , the important thing is that you enjoyed your time after all ..

Mala2e6 said...

hareega..merry christmas

i always face this problem with people, i want to say kol saneh w into salmeen,but i can know what they think,how can we be salmeen and we lost a dear one..el mohem

3aza makes me laugh hysterically..don't know why,and i always say the wrong things..once i had the cup of coffee and said"daymeh" and what danah said..i have done that..i got introfudced to someone and when she was leaving i said for9a sa3eedeh,my friend heard me and said.walek sho for9a sa3eedeh..so i said to the woman for9a zay il zift..


i loved the way u satisfy ur argentina love to win thing..playing fifa will surely compensate for the loss of argentina in WC..:) allahomma la shamata..ma3lesh hay il faisali faz 3al naser..ya3ni ishi w minno

the chicago cap,the plane dilemma,the unshaven look..ya zalameh inta 3anjadd hareega..looooooooooooooool..w 2al sho..not so graphic..

anyway..it was fun to read ..loved it

Anonymous said...

Great Christmas story..one thing I have to ask about..how did you manage to shop in 20 minutes and got ALL your gifts?? You must be talented in this area! Other than that, the rest of the story is great. Thanks for sharing.

Hareega said...

LOL, my sister lives near orland park, southwest! i wnet back to arizona now thank god chicago was awefully cold

orietnal blog... mnee7 elli ma zaghradat

tealover.. it took 20 mminutes because i had a problem parking, usually it's 5

mala2e6, thanx for the comment, i hope you'll celebrate all the coming occasions , and don;t say "forsa sa3eedeh" or "t3eesho o taklo ghairha" bil 3aza :D

summer... yes i thought twice about mentioning shopping in 20 minutes, it's a waste of time, but i had a big problem parking