A strange and personal tale of Qumran. Our final visit in Israel was to the…
2. The Maid
3. The Soldier
7. Who’s Who
8. Street Kids
10. The Bank
12. The White Gecko
14. Black Adam – Part 2
15. Israel Part 1
16. Israel Part 2
17. Israel Part 3
Rick was not the only one that had to deal with Black Adam. He was always grumpy, never smiled and carried his black cloud around with him at all times, poor man. At the villa one morning Adam sought me out. He was clearly upset, a bundle of tension and anger.
“I want you to tell the staff to come to my room.” he said. “And you come with them.”
So I rounded up Mona, the maid and Hagazy, our security guard. When the three of us got to the spacious lobby outside his room on the second floor, Adam was waiting for us. The dark double wooden doors to his apartment were shut and Adam was standing there, waving the large door key at me, like an angry headmaster with his cane.
“Now, I want you to explain to them that they are NOT to go into my room EVER!!!”
I nodded, placed myself in front of the doors and faced them. I took a deep but surreptitious breath, stretching out my arms as wide as I could in a gesture of ‘No entry!’ Mona looked bemused. Hagazy had the most wicked twinkle in his eyes and a grin he probably shouldn’t have been wearing under the circumstances. Whether it was the sight of my petite female frame ‘guarding’ the door or Adam’s apparent impotence in the situation, I’ll never know. It all felt a bit comic to me but I ‘got it’. Adam couldn’t cope with having these total strangers ‘invade’ his private space. I could understand that. He was visibly riled that these servants of the house, whom he did not know and with whom he could not communicate, went into his room when he wasn’t there, Mona to make his bed and to clean and Hagazy to open and close the shutters at the beginning and end of his own working day.
I looked both the Egyptians in the eyes and said ‘Laa, laa, laa” as forcibly as I could muster while shaking my head sternly. Then I added a few more ‘laa’s for good measure. Laa means ‘No’ in Arabic. Since I’d not been there very long and didn’t have much of an Arabic vocabulary, this was all I could think to say. It was enough. They both got the message and in the few remaining weeks of his stay, Adam’s room was never invaded again. Nevertheless Black Adam’s troubles didn’t stop with the staff at the villa.
On Adam’s first day at work, he was standing in the downstairs lounge of the villa with his briefcase packed, ready to go. When I saw him I said, “Now Adam, take a roll of toilet paper. Put it in your bag.”
“Well you come from a country where the use of toilet paper is pretty normal. This is not a country where they do that.”
“What do you mean?”
In Egypt, they use toilet paper to dry their hands after they’ve washed them.”
“Yes. I’ve got a suspicion that they think rubbing shit around your arse with a piece of paper is dirty and unhygienic so they wash themselves with water.”
Adam gave me a peculiar look but I wasn’t kidding and pressed the message home.
“Never leave here without toilet paper! You don’t know when you’re going to get the Pharaoh’s revenge.” I had the red pills for that, just in case and handed Adam a card of them.
The toilet paper was one of my rules for everybody on the foreign team. Everybody had to take a roll of toilet paper with them every day because I was sick to death of people moaning that there was no toilet paper. They would come to me asking for it. Well, I needed to go looking after people’s toilet paper like a hole in the head. I showed Adam how I always had some folded up and in my back pocket, even when I went to town for whatever I went to town for. If I went to Rotary, if I went to a restaurant or whatever, I wouldn’t leave the apartment without some toilet paper in my back pocket.
Days went by. Adam was working in the administration building on the accounts for Omar’s group of companies. Adam was getting along fine until, on this particular day, he went to use the private toilet and, guess what, there was no toilet paper. He was always complaining there was no toilet paper.
So, unwisely, he rang me up and announced,“There’s no toilet paper.”
I said,” Adam, you have toilet paper in your bag. You have toilet paper. Shut up about whether or not there’s toilet paper in the toilet. I’m not interested. Use your own toilet paper like I do, like everybody else does.”
As far as I was concerned he could use a roll a day, I couldn’t care less as long as he shut up about it.
But Adam wouldn’t let it rest. He complained to the guy servicing that area that there was no toilet paper in the toilet. The man told him, “We haven’t got any,” so Adam was somewhat cross but he went off and got his own precious toilet paper out of his bag, used that and took the remainder of the roll back to his bag.
Next thing, the phone rang. Ibrahim, the Chief Accountant for Omar’s Group of Companies, was on his way out from town. Lo and behold a roll of toilet paper was put in the toilet by the young guy who made the tea and attended to other such tasks. When he saw this, Adam exploded.
“You said you didn’t have any toilet paper!”
“It’s for Mr Ibrahim,” the youth explained.
That an Egyptian could be graced with a roll of toilet paper but not him, incensed Adam. He went ‘ape-shit’.
Now Adam had a pretty high opinion of his own status, based on other positions he’d previously held but he had overlooked the fact that he’d just come out of something of a breakdown and was not actually in charge of anything here except the job he was expected to do. His perceived status was only in his own head and not in any one else’s.
Meanwhile, up in Omar’s office…
Omar and I were engaged in an intense discussion about what we wanted to do, the best strategy, timing etc. I was earnestly trying to convince Omar of something. “This is how I want to do it and he’ll have to do that and you’ll have to tell him to get off his arse…”
Suddenly, Adam burst into the office without knocking. Now in my opinion that was unforgivable. This was the office of the owner of the company and Adam is shouting about Ibrahim coming from town and toilet paper appears and it’s not right and, “Everyday I’m asking for toilet paper and I’m told there’s none but he had some and…” He was incandescent but he finally blew himself out and stood there puffing like a winded bull.
By now Omar was on his feet, coffee cup and saucer in hand and he was very pissed off.
Omar shouted at me, “How dare he talk to me like that!”
In one swift movement Omar hurled his cup of coffee and its saucer at the wall. It hit the wall with a crash and then, in defiance of physics, the broken crockery and remaining coffee slid in slow motion down the wall.
“I don’t have to put up with this!” Omar announced. He turned to Adam and said, “I couldn’t give a shit about your bloody toilet paper! Rick you sort it out!” and he stormed out of the office.
Adam blinked and said to me, “I think I’ve upset him.”
I thought, “Well, you’re quick on the uptake”.
So, I reamed Adam out about thoroughly unprofessional behaviour. If it was over to me he would be on a plane back to Australia. He was putting the whole contract in jeopardy etc. etc.. Which he was because Omar was just as likely to say, “Well f**k it, you can all go home!”
”Adam,” I said, “Your next job is to find Omar and apologise and you better convince him you mean it!”
He did find Omar and he did apologise. When Omar came back he explained, “He came and saw me and apologised but he said he’s very upset about his daughter.”
I knew about this. I knew that his daughter was in Paris for a holiday and Adam wanted to go for the weekend to see her but he didn’t have enough money.
“Yes,” I told Omar, “he had wanted to see his daughter. He’s been through a marriage breakup and his daughter ended up quite estranged from him because of it so he wants to see her but he can’t afford it.”
“Mmm” said Omar, “It doesn’t cost much to fly return to Paris, only about fifteen hundred bucks! Oh get him back here.”
So, I rang Adam and told him to ‘get up here’. He came back, probably thinking he was getting the ‘Don’t come Monday’ speech and was about to be put on the next plane home.
Instead, Omar said, “I’ll buy your ticket to Paris and you can pay me back when you’ve got the money.”
So then and there, Omar got on the phone and rang the secretary downstairs, “Get me a ticket to Paris for this afternoon. This is the guy’s name. He’ll bring down his passport in a minute. There’s a flight around 2.00pm. Make sure he gets on that and comes back Sunday night or Monday morning.”
So Adam went to Paris for the weekend and met with his daughter. On his return, his black cloud hadn’t completely disappeared but it had lightened to a more tolerable shade of grey. He wasn’t so nervy or uptight either. The villa staff never invaded his space again, which also helped.
What’s more, he never mentioned toilet paper again.