Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Saudi delight - True story!

Arriving to Riyadh on a mid summer day, first time in my life I see an ambient temperature of 49 degree but happy to see again my old clients and old friends who happen to live there.

I had to make some demo of our product on a car for my job our partner sales team parked the car just in front of the showroom no single shadow anywhere....
We started connecting the product to the car a procedure that should take few minutes my colleague around the car waiting, it took little longer than anticipated..... Finished the procedure and stared my intro but found no one around!
A 5 smiley face looking to me from behind the glass in the well air-conditioned shop with a look on there face that say: you said few minutes, your fault!

Nice day, return to hotel thought to have a look on my flight back ticket to check take off time but however I looked no where to be found...lost it.
Jumped into a taxi asking for E A office, likely it was just few minutes’ away, nice A/C new office.

Informed them that I have a flight in 2 days and lost my ticket and need to issue a new one.
''That should not be a problem Sir, we need to contact the Athens office for confirmation and you will just need to get us a police report on the lost ticket '' He said with a big smile on his face.

As much as it is annoying to go look for a police station mid summer, I felt somehow released that he seemed quiet confident that it should only take few hours of simple procedure and once he have the report, I should have my new optimistic!

One thing to appreciate in Riyadh, that it only take few sec to find a taxi, jumped in one got lucky, he speak Arabic and asked him to drive me to a police station which likely was again not far, few minutes driving, asked him to wait for me and went in very confident and polite:

-good evening officer, I need to make a report for a lost flight ticket.
I thought to rephrase more politely:
-Excuse me officer, where can I report a lost ticket. said lost?
-Yes Sir, I need this report for the airliner to issue another ticket.
-That is none of our business,
He said it so slow as if he was speaking to a mentally retarded creation, even me I felt like how right he is and how stupid I am to ask for such shameful thing, I felt like I have to apologize! Still, I had to try again.

-but I was asked by the airliner to report the ticket lost.

Silence, I simply no more existed for him

Quickly back to E A office to report my dramatic failure and ask them to skip this step or suggest an alternative to finish with this story.

-Sorry, police don’t make such report, I was there and they don’t issue report for lost ticket.
-Why you said it was a lost ticket?
-Because I lost the ticket!
-You should tell them the ticket was stolen and get a report and you better do it fast before we close......and go to a different station now to avoid trouble with the first one.
-But.....he did not give me chance to finish my sentence:
-Sorry, I can’t do anything without the report...Next please!

It only took few second to find another taxi but this time I had a driver from Bangladesh, this is a special particularity to Saudi and generally in the Gulf area having foreign taxi drivers, hardly speaking Arabic and many don’t speak English neither. You add to that if they are new they hardly know there way around, and there GPS navigation is to find another patriot driving and stop him to ask!

-Police station please but not the one in the Setin area please (the one I just left).
-Enta kalem Arabi? (Do you speak Arabic) but in a way that sounded like (you Arabic talk)
-Yes, I speak Arabic; can you please take me to the closest police station apart of the one in Setin area?
-Enta menein? (Where from)
-I am from Egypt, can you please take me to the closest police station apart of the one in Setin area?
-You don’t live here?
-No, I don’t, does it make a difference?
-I don’t know where police station is, wait please...
He parked his car and stopped another Taxi and seems to quickly getting some info, back to car and we were heading toward the same place I was there before, no matter how much I tried to explain that I need a different one, I could not get my message neither in Arabic nor in English.

-Enta moush kale Arabi! (you speak no Arabic!)!
I prefer to skip my answer to this point!

I went out, jumped in another Taxi and explained to his astonished face that I need to go to any police station he know of but not this one we are in front!

Another 20 mins drive and we were there, asked him to wait for me, jumped out took a breath and went in.

-Excuse me officer, need to report a stolen airline ticket.
-Hmmmmm…..very suspicious look..... Follow me
He opened a big book, took few seconds and lighted a cigarette.
-Where are you from?
-Egypt, officer.
More suspicious look.....
-What is your name?
-Charles, officer
-No your name please?
-My name is Charles officer
-Charlie…what is that, a name?
-Yes, officer, my father fault.

Now I felt the look is not any more just suspicious but the kind of look that say: with such name you should go to jail!
-Where did you got stolen?
Stupid me, so logic question but was not ready for it...
-Errrrrrr I a some...where close
-How was it stolen?
-I left it somewhere while trying a new shirt and could not find after

He immediately closed the books with a big victory smile:
-Sorry Charlie, that is lost not stolen, can’t make a report!
No matter how I tried to explain, those people have the ability not to see or hear you when they don’t want, you simply stop to exist for them!

Likely my taxi driver was still waiting and it becomes harder now to explain to him that I need to go to other police station, neither this one nor the other one!

That was of course too much for his curiosity not to ask and I had to satisfy his curiosity seeing the time running and hope for help.
Sir, just tell them you were in the street, had a small bag in your hand, someone took it and run.

How logic and how stupid I was not to thinking of that!
It only took 15 minutes to next police station, took a big breath, went in with confidence and determined to get things done, kept repeating the magic sentence advised by my wise taxi driver to make sure I don’t get it wrong........
Once in, looked everywhere, but, no one around took few minutes till I realized the reason: prayer time!

Another few minutes till I heard them coming, but I already lost my confidence with the time waiting, no matter how simple it sound, going to a police station in a foreign country with intentions to lie is not as simple as it might sound!

I waited politely to acknowledge my existence forgetting of there talent of totally ignoring you!

-Excuse me officer, I need to report a stolen ticket, I was walking in the street and someone just took my bag and run quickly, I could not see him. Likely there was nothing else in the bag apart of my ticket.
Trying to sound as serious as possible and saying the entire story as instructed by my wise taxi driver without forgetting any word or smiling over how idiot the story sounded....I said it so quickly with all my mind concentrating not to getting it wrong, so quick that I doubted if he understood anything!

He did on the third time, I simply could not get myself to cut it in few sentece, I just knew to say it as one word!

Few minutes and the report was ready and I felt a huge achievement and pride!

Back to E A office unfortunately too late, closed for today.
Next day, finished my first meeting and immediately back to E A, very proud with my valuable report, went to the same person, showing him my treasure.
-Well done Sir, please have a sit, it is prayer time, will be back!

20 minutes later, he came back with the ticket and informed me it will only cost 195 Saudi Riyal for issuing the ticket again.
Living in the Middle East teach you that once you have to deal with a public owned company or a civil employee you better off not even thinking of arguing cos once you do, you stop to exist for them at best!

Took out my credit card to pay.
-Sorry Sir, we don’t take credit card
-What? An airline company not accepting credit card?????
-Yes Sir, we just moved a week ago from our old office and we don’t have the machine working yet.
-I don’t have cash, how can we issue the ticket?
-You need to go to any bank and get cash.

You learn to value so much the non stop flow of taxis!

Few minutes and back with my cash again feeling things cant go wrong any more, paying my ticket not believing how efficient I was to win this valuable prize!
Than I did something I regreted so much....I asked the employee before I go:
-How much would it cost buying a new ticket Riyadh- Cairo one way?
-300 Riyal, Sir!!!!
I am almost sure he had a strange smile on his face!

I lost words and left don’t know if I am crazy or it is just the summer heat that making me feel like that!
105 Riyal difference (30 USD) between issue new ticket and replacement ticket, I paid double this money in taxi only, let apart frustration and time lost!

See you soon with Portland-USA passport control delight!

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