Retro: January 2008 (to Tide you over…)

Posted on April 29, 2008


When I was in university, I decided along with approximately 47,138,768 other girls that my life should be exactly like the show Sex and the City. I whisked away such minor discrepancies as a fifteen-year age difference between the protagonists and I, and the impossibility of any of the show’s characters affording their lifestyles on their salaries. Seven years on (yes, I am crippled with years) my life – while still fraught with romantic mishaps of documentary film stature – is chiefly characterized by numerous apartment-related disasters.

Many of these misfortunes are of an aqueous nature. For an inhabitant of a fifth floor apartment, I feel that my feet have been wetted an indecently large number of times, by a variety of unpleasant waters.

I suppose I bear some blame for not having noticed when I moved in that the ceiling was gently but unmistakably convex. However, I cannot have been expected to prepare for global warming grabbing Cairo by the balls, as it did in January when it rained miserably and torrentially. Having spent the weekend with my sister, I gaily sailed into my apartment one Saturday with my friend K in tow, to find waves lapping softly at our feet across the cream tiled floor. Further steps elicited unpleasant squishing noises. When we finally found a light that would work, we noted that the living room was unquestionably several inches deep in water. My usual reaction to such incidents of widespread incompetence is to stride around shouting profanity, so I did that for a while; K took this opportunity to quietly fetch a mop and bucket and try to usher the water across the living room to the bathroom drain (feasible, my apartment being both minute and entirely tiled). He refused, however, to touch the carpet, which reeked of mildew and generations of study-abroad students. I rolled the carpet up and then called the landlord and my roommate, both of whom rushed over, and we all stood around being unhelpful while K cleaned the place up. I tried to negotiate with the utterly, utterly unprincipled landlord to lower the rent (which I have since discovered is actually what the law says to do, Article 569 of the Civil Code), and when that did not work, I announced that I was moving out.

I didn’t move out in the end, because they promised to fix the ceiling. Which they may or may not have done, but it’s stopped raining and I left the windows open for a week to let the damp dog smell out. And I threw out the carpet.

A couple of weeks later, and my two friends Spaz and Joy and sitting with me on the lumpy couch celebrating our youth and a bright sunny weekend day by watching The Big Lebowski in our pyjamas. My only concession to weekend-ness was that I put a load of laundry on. At one point Joy moved her foot and noted that her shoes were wet; I looked down and realized that a slow tide of wetness was approaching from the washing machine.

Because priorities are priorities, the first act anyone took was that Joy paused The Big Lebowski. No one wanted to miss a ridiculous quip while soapy water cascaded over our feet. Then I leapt up and turned on the light, while all Spaz did was to gracefully swing her feet onto the couch and find a comfortable reclining position. I went to the washing machine and realized that the door was leaking, and then I decided that the best course of action would be to turn it off, which I did. Then I stared at it for some minutes, finally deciding that my fuzzy slippers were not the best footwear of choice for this event. I decided this when they had become a sodden purple mass as a result of me standing in a puddle for a while in silence. I went and put on some sneakers, and some track pants that had been shrunk in the wash so that they reached my ankles. This caused Joy to erupt into laughter, and also cluckings at how I was going to track dirt around. She drew in the air a complicated diagram of how I should clean up while getting the ground the least dirty. I disregarded these remarks.

I fetched a towel and tried to soak up the water, which act had the effect of a Kleenex dropped into the Mediterranean. I fetched the well-used mop and tried to move the water off the floor into the bucket, and then I tried to move it towards the drain in the bathroom. Joy and Spaz watched anxiously (insofar as one can watch anxiously from a horizontal position). With a sigh Joy got up, concerned at my water-pushing shortcomings. “Do you have a salaata?”

“A what now?” I said.

“You know, one of those rubber things for pushing water around.”

“Yeah, that has no name here as far as I know. You Syrians. No, of course I don’t have one.”

Heroically, she actually went downstairs and purchased one. I moved tables around and pretended I was rowing a boat. Spaz continued to emit giggles.

Joy came back and announced that she loved “tasleet”. Apparently it was a feature of her childhood vacations in Syria. Not wanting to seem unhelpful in what was after all my apartment, I resisted the urge to sit back down. Instead I stood around and looked suitably concerned while she efficiently disposed of the soapy water. Finally, when the floor was merely damp instead of submerged, we moved the table back. I watched in horror as, in slow motion, a full ashtray slowly tipped over from its position on the edge of the moving table. In a move akin to the Olympic long jump, I dove for it and miraculously caught it before the floor became coated with cigarette ash. I and all viewers were really impressed with my prowess, since I usually confine my athletic efforts to opening wine bottles.

Regally Spaz swung her legs back down and we watched the rest of the movie while I kept an eagle eye on the condition of the washing machine. Regrettably, this was not to prove the last encounter with that appliance. Tune in next week for My Washing Machine: a Wet/Dry Relationship.

Originally published in Campus Magazine, April 2008.