It’s the little things…

Posted on September 3, 2006


So I am leaving this job at the end of September. I got a more tempting offer at a Large Corporate Firm. It’ll suck to leave, as I really like it here, especially the people and the hours and the ability to wear flip-flops (or in my case, no footwear at all), but this other one is a more secure career move. I hope this turns out to be a good decision, but I’ll really miss Cute Boss, Hot Girl Boss, and all the Foreign Chicks who Take Embassy Warnings Too Seriously and Drape Scarves about their Already Modest Clothing. I quit today.

So, anyway, there are quite a few things that I, in my state of lawyerly geekiness, find funny around here.

The Towel

We only have one bathroom here for all the staff, and it’s none too clean. The excretion process involves going to the kitchen/file storage room, procuring a roll of toilet paper from a cupboard, and taking it with you to the bathroom under the scrutiny of, like, 10 interpreters and other, usually male, staff members. On the back of the bathroom door hangs a towel. This towel is the nexus of the world’s filth. It is a biohazard the likes of which you might find in the sludgy heart of an oil well. It is always damp and grey streaks of dirt are visible on it from the reception area. I love and appreciate towels, as any good Hitch Hiker fan does. In every apartment I have ever lived there has been a variety of extremely large towels in bright colours, none of which were ever allowed to carry the Plague. So I was personally, and hygienically, offended by the office towel. So I began my campaign against it soon after I got here.

First, I spoke to my colleagues who shared an office with me, one English chick, one American chick, and one American Southern guy. They all chorused in unison, “You even use that towel?” The Southern guy whipped out his personal sparkling white towel from his bag to show me the lay of the land. We conferred, and they informed me that that same towel had been there since they started working here months ago. We shuddered together. To cement a plan of action, I decided to tackle my immediate boss, Hot Girl Boss. She said, “You use that towel?” She advised me to ask the office manager to buy us a paper dispenser. The office manager said, “Inty betesta3melly el foota di?” (You use that towel?). He assured me that the office custodian washed the towels every day, which was met with scepticism all round. He said he’d look into a paper dispenser. I decided to just steal a toilet roll for my private use. On my way into the bathroom, I ran into the receptionist, a female who is skilled in so many tongues she often tries two or three before she hits on one you might understand. She said, “Sza..fring…you use that towel?”

I’ve given up. I’ve decided there are bigger battles to be won: The Stapler.

The Stapler and The Pen

Staplers are like platinum in our office. The reception is rumoured to have one that works, but they guard it with their lives. I found one once in the stationary closet, which had a label that said, “I LOVE STRONGHOLD!” So I strongholded it and it broke. So did the next one. I got my colleague, American Chick, to bring out her own personal purple one, whereupon it was promptly stolen, triggering a chain of intra-office accusatory emails. I’m told that I should be getting my own stapler soon. I also hear I will get my very own pen in the not-too-distant-future. One time, there were five lawyers including myself all interviewing clients in the same room, and there was one pen. Every few minutes someone would stand up and yell, “Ya gama3a mish keda/Come on people! I have LEGAL DOCUMENTS here for people to sign!” And then someone would throw over The Pen. Then he’d take it back to stash in his bosom. Hot Girl Boss now brings special labelled pens from her husband’s workplace so that she can identify potential thieves.

The Refugee Bag

I take a massive black bag to work. I bought it for my mom but she said it was too matronly. So now The Tweet and I tote it around full of books. I like to pretend I take it to work because it has room for my lunch (it smells of ham right now – you probably don’t know this, but if you know where to shop Cairo has stupendous ham), but actually it hosts a wide variety of other necessary items, most notably flat shoes and spoons and spare earrings. However, I also keep it stocked with refugee supplies. Whenever I go to the UNHCR to represent someone, I impress upon her that we could be there all day, and so she should bring food and drink. She doesn’t. So while we sit in that hot stuffy room for interminable hours, I release in succession a panoply of items for the well-being of my client. I determine need based upon facial expression, since we usually can’t communicate. I like to start with water, for the pregnant ones, followed by some sort of pastry-based foodstuff. Then comes the fan (just like the one in the picture). The fan is normally for my own use in taxis and dubious outdoor ahwas in dank parts of town, but is better employed for cooling Somali girls swathed in layers of hijab. Then they usually start to chatter with countrymen and I read over their documents, and of course then it’s time for the chicklit. I feel like a mom. But there’s never any Kleenex in my bag, and sometimes there are two mp3 players, so I don’t think I need to buy the breast pump yet, I think.

More is probably forthcoming, as social companion and speed-dial buddy E has now arisen from her Hepped-out bed and can now remain upright, albeit with much roomier pants.

Posted in: friends, humour, work