There’s nothing like waking up at 6am to proctor the PSAT out at school after a late night of Halloween festivities. The only thing keeping me on my feet – besides the prospect of one additional sick day as repayment for my services – was the general astonishment I felt when the students couldn’t remember their addresses or write in cursive.
The rest of the day just tumbled along in an exhausted stupor until my doorbell rang a few minutes ago. An Egyptian man in a striped shirt that would have made Sesame Street’s Ernie green with envy smiled reluctantly at me.
“I am here for rubbish,” he announced. “I collect money for rubbish. 100 pounds.”
Rachel had pinned a 100 LE note to my freezer with a magnet the night before, so I easily plucked it off and handed it to him. This seemed to put his reluctance at ease and he smiled wider as he wrote the receipt.
“Thank you, thank you miss. Miss or madam?”
“Miss.” Now it was my turn to feel reluctant.
“Oh, welcome to Egypt. Welcome.”
“Yes, thank you.”
I began to close the door and nod a polite good bye, but the man was not quite finished.
“My name is Mohamed. I have two wife.”
Awkwardness wedged its way through the doorway. How do you respond to something like that? I took the approach one might take when reacting to a child who proudly announces he can write not one but two letters of the alphabet.
“Yes, I have two wife.”
“The first wife, she did not give me children. The second wife, she give me children. Hamdallah.”
“Yes, hamdallah. Thank you.”
I managed to close the door before I allowed myself some amusement at the absurdity.
Amusement, and a careful dose of anxiety.