Just in case you forgot what this blog is really about

Posted on June 12, 2008


I woke up at 5 am one night last week to service my pathetically weak excretory system. Drowsily becoming vertical I made to open the door of my room. It was jammed. I pushed, I pulled, I hung on the knob; I put on my glasses and turned on the light, and for some reason turned off the A/C. Nothing. I had to go – I can’t hold it for long because of my geriatric kidneys. In trying to force it I broke the door handle (of course) making it spin around ineffectually. Hopping on one foot I looked around the room – it was obvious that I’d have to bow to the inevitable and pee somewhere inside it. I spotted a monstrously ugly mirrored trash can which I had already decided give the landlord back due to its hideousness, and in this I peed.
Luckily I have peed in worse places many a time, due to particularly bad luck, defective kidneys and Egyptian residency. It was thus almost not humiliating at all to be crouched over a mirrored trash can, clad (partly) in shortie
pyjamas in my wall-to-wall carpeted 70s-style room, balancing my ass on the scalloped, flowered edges of the monstrous bin. Naturally the Kleenex in my room had also run out that very evening.
There was no particular need – having whizzed – to leave my room before it was time to go to work. The only other person with a key to my apartment was my prospective roommate, who had not moved in yet. For some idiotic reason I called her, even though it was 5 am. I must still have been half asleep (I have perfected comatose urination). Obviously she didn’t pick up – luckily – so I sat on my bed and contemplated my options: no computer, no TV, no books. So I called a friend, one in the U.S., so he’d be awake. Also, he’s an engineer, and I thought he might have door-opening ideas.
He proved not to have any (probably because his brain went into shock on hearing that I was proximate to my own pee) but he did suggest that I jump off the balcony for help (am on ground floor), or – at least – put the pee out there. When I told the story to my colleague the next day she said, “Why must you always give me too much information. I don’t want to know! But just a second…why would you leave the pee in your room when you have a balcony? Are you mad?”
“Well, it’s a big room, and it was far enough away not to smell…it was near the A/C.”
“So it was being blown over you by the A/C for the rest of the night.”
“Um…yes, yes it was. I had not thought of that.”
But back to the tale. I sensibly (or perhaps not, as it turns out) turned the A/C back on and lay around in bed chatting on the phone to my American friend until he, equally sensibly, pointed out that I should leave some battery power on the phone since the charger was outside, and I might need to call someone. I content myself with just texting my roommate, Texas Miss, to come open the door for me in the morning. Just as I was ruminating over who to call if she couldn’t open it from the outside I fell asleep.
Three hours later I was woken up by Texas Miss opening the door, asking if I was OK. There had been a Pee Situation, I told her. “You don’t have to tell me what you did about it,” she said, backing away hastily. Now she says that she was trying to spare me embarrassment because we did not know each other at all at that point. She now has a better understanding of my stance regarding embarrassing stories.
Aforementioned stance was amply demonstrated last Thursday, when we had a housewarming party. I mixed and matched too many beverages (I didn’t think it was possible to throw up so very, very much), and therefore told sundry persons about having to pee in the bin, pointing to it several times as a visual aid. Friends and well-wishers tried in vain to prevent me from repeating the story 23,988 times, to no avail. You’d think I would at least have refrained from identifying the receptacle, especially to complete strangers, but you’d have thought wrong. However, I did wash it out and rinse it with Clorox twice. I also gave it to the landlord later.
I can’t blame the substances entirely though – as readers will know, I enjoy very limited ability to monitor my remarks. So far, I’ve just been viewing this as a character flaw, but now it seems I may have a get-out-of-jail-free card. Someone sent me a New York Times article quoting a recent study by Dr. Kate Rankin of the
Memory and Aging Center at the University of California. Apparently, she has found out that something called the right parahippocampal gyrus, a part of the brain, is involved in detecting sarcasm.

Dr. Rankin was asked whether even those with intact brains might have differences in brain areas that explain how well they pick up on sarcasm.

“We all have strengths and weaknesses in our cognitive abilities, including our ability to detect social cues,” she said. “There may be volume-based differences in certain regions that explain variations in all sorts of cognitive abilities.”

So is it possible that Jon Stewart, who wields sarcasm like a machete on “The Daily Show,” has an unusually large right parahippocampal gyrus?

“His is probably just normal,” Dr. Rankin said. “The right parahippocampal gyrus is involved in detecting sarcasm, not being sarcastic.”

Mine has got to be wee. I can’t pick up sarcasm at all, although I do use it sometimes (although I feel like that isn’t being fair to my friends – I mock them but blink at them uncomprehendingly when they mock me). And I hate Jon Stewart (yes, blasphemy, perfidy, insanity, I know). But she also said:

“The right parahippocampal gyrus must be involved in detecting more than just visual context — it perceives social context as well,” Dr. Rankin said.

I have little social context perception. I often feel like I’m deaf or retarded or something, around other people. Kind of like seeing them under water – I feel like I’m just missing stuff. So I was excited by this information and wanted to have all kinds of tests done until it was pointed out to me that 1) M.R.I.s are expensive; and 2) you feel really gross after having one. I would have really liked some kind of certificate of mental disability to show people though – not that genetic predispositions have helped alcoholics at all.

The door handle has since been fixed – for a few days there I had the tongue thing taped open with masking tape, which was generally and truthfully observed to be ghetto. I was holding the door shut with shibshibs. Although I don’t know why expectations of non-ghettoness are high, considering that Zamalek is supposed to be a “nice” neighbourhood yet I still live in front of a garbage dump on which there are squatters. Yes, there is a widening gap between rich and poor in Egypt but I notice that it has generally not been reflected in urban planning or maintenance or anything of that nature. Any of the supposedly nice neighbourhoods inside Cairo still have a whole bunch of shit wrong with them. I don’t know why this is – I think that perhaps privileged Egyptians, in their ultimate greed and selfishness, don’t want to spend money on anything that will be enjoyed by anyone other than their immediate selves. They prefer to spend their money on pimping out the inside of their actual residences only – fuck the hallways, even. But then again, I just don’t know anymore why things are why they are here. I’m fresh out of theories.