Eventually I headed to back to the hotel to collect my bag from storage. I was already running a scenario in my head where there is no bag to collect and no proof I ever left one there. Tired, sweaty, grimy and not a little grumpy, I threw budgetary concerns aside and taxied it all the way to the hotel. So preoccupied was I with the bag that I left the taxi without my iPhone. My iPhone. With all my contacts, my Skype, my twitter, my instagram, my games, my camera, my Omnifocus personal organiser, my music, and in a way, my indispensable friend. In a taxi moving away from me into a foggy metropolis. Had I forgotten a baby, my own offspring, in a taxi, would I have bolted the way I did down that road? Would I have gotten that surge of adrenaline that made me run like I was 15 again? I’d like to think so. I’d really really like to think so.
Thanks to the near permanent near gridlock that is Cairo traffic, I managed to catch up with him, open the door and get into the car. It took about 4 minutes to find the phone which smoothly slipped out of my baggy trousers, down the side of the seat and was somewhere underneath. A long 4 minutes. When I got it back, it was as if I got another chance at happiness..
At the hotel, I was pleasantly and shamefully surprised that my bag was still there.. Clearly whoever put it into my head that Egyptians, or Arabs, or Middle Easterners in general, can’t be trusted, can’t be trusted. I blame the Hollywood industry for that.
As the receptionist gave me my bag, I gave her a guilty tip. Guilty for doubting her integrity, or as she put it, trust. She looked at the 100 egyptian pounds I put in her hand looking surprised. Clearly, I unintentionally overtipped and I wasn’t going to admit it. I’ve never been good with money. Acting as if over tipping is what I do for a living, I coolly walked out.
I arrived at the building where the free flat was situated. On the 6th floor. My father refused another free flat because it was on the 6th floor. But you can’t escape destiny. He ended up with the 6th floor again. The only difference was that this one was in an ideal location. It was residential. comparatively leafy, quiet, and close to downtown. Close to everything in fact.
He wasn’t there. He wasn’t there 4 hours later. There was a female caretaker and her family who were responsible for the building. They made me feel comfortable in a waiting room. Offered me tea and water. Got me an electric fan for some reason, and generally made me feel quite welcome. Finally my dad arrived. I barely had the energy to give him a hug. Seeing him made my day. I patted his big pot belly affectionately. But I wasn’t going to offer to carry his bags or mine up 6 floors. But after giving my head a couple of kisses and a big fat man hug, I find myself taking up the bags. One soul destroying floor after another. Talking all the way. I notice he handles it worse than I do. For the first time, I look at my dad and appreciate that he’s an old man now. My dad, is an old man now.
Half way up we come across 2 teenage boys washing the stairs and landings. As if its the most natural thing in the world, my dad asks them if they are with the caretaker family. They said yes.
“Can you help us with the luggage?”
Yes. Dad is here, everything is going to be okay. They take the luggage and practically run up the stairs with it. Dad gives them two Egyptian pounds each. I was going to say isn’t that too little but remembering the 100 I bestowed earlier, I thought maybe I better learn from him.
Then we entered the flat. And I went flat. All day long I was waiting for this moment. A shower. and a bed. There was no bed. or water in the shower. What we walked into was a half finished flat. covered in dust.
“Wow. What do we do now? Mom’s coming tomorrow and there isn’t even a kitchen here.”
“Dad, come look at the bathroom.. ”
“Dad, there are no bedrooms. there are no beds.. what the hell are we going to sleep on tonight even..”
While I went around moaning and grumbling.. Dad went around resolving. That’s what’s great with working class, self made, parents. However successful they become, however much they achieve in their life, they never lose the Spartan ability to adapt and make do with whatever little they have. Spartan for themselves but for their children, they tended to over indulge. I remember once when I went on my first school camping trip. I was meant to be away for a week. My dad showed up with a foldaway bed. All the other kids had sleeping beds. I had a proper foldaway bed. Of course, it made me stick out like a sore thumb for good or bad, and I felt a little too royal to be totally at one with nature, but its the thought that counts. They’re loving parents.
“Look, There’s a TV, an airconditioner, There is a fridge in that room over there. The rest of the kitchen is in that room there. The sofas are foldaway beds. Take one and take it too the other room. There’s bedding and pillows wrapped in that blanket over there. Get the shoes out of the fridge and move it to the kitchen. Get a broom and start brushing while I try to get the water going.”
That’s my Dad. I snap to and start cleaning. Then I get smart and call the boys. Who do the cleaning while we work on the water which we never ever resolve the entire stay. There were hints that that was the case because there were two huge plastic bins filled with water with a hose from the sink’s tap feeding into them.
“Dad, I think the idea is when the water comes, we keep filling these containers for when there is no water. ”
And that was how it was for the entire stay. whenever we heard the gurgling of the pipes, we grabbed towels and made a mad dash for a quick cold shower.
Pretty soon we had a cleaned up organised flat that really did have all we really needed. Life was good. I pull out a sofa bed. and crash.