When Ignatius Reill first offered his bawab a beer, he could never have predicted just how wrong things could go...
About four score and seven days ago, I wrote a blog about how beer solved my bawab problems. Filled with pride and confidence, I droned on and on about the magical qualities of beer when it comes to solving my world’s most pressing problems.
Your bawab doesn’t like your Egyptian friends: give him a beer. Your bawab doesn’t think you should be socializing with females in the confines of your apartment: give him a beer. Your bawab is talking your ear off: give him a beer. There is one little problem…alcohol is addictive.
What have I done? I turned my bawab into an alcoholic and potentially compounded my problems. Originally, beer was exchanged so that he would simply leave me alone. Now, every time I enter the building, he inquires as to what adult beverage I intend to give him. His thirst is endless. First he wanted Saqqara, which is a minor living fee that I can certainly stomach. So I decided that a weekly stipend of one or two Saqqaras is more than appropriate given our unique situation.
But once that carbonated Egyptian brew slid down his greedy throat his thirst grew into an insatiable monster. Next he wanted red wine – that blood thirsty monster can see no end over that fat belly of his. To his request, I politely replied that I don’t drink wine and proceeded to hide my liquid grape purchases in my backpack. Sensing failure, he abruptly changed directions and began demanding hard liquor with the particularly amusing line: Didn’t I do my duty by you? I don’t even have the budget to drink good hard liquor, the kind that doesn’t make you go blind.
So, as soon as I thought my problems were solved by a beer or two, my mind was filled with the cost benefit analysis and opportunity loss associated with giving my bawab beers, wine, or liquor. Would it be more cost efficient to buy him a Johnnie Waler and call it khalas for the month, or should I stick to a weekly stipend of beer? The weekly beer stipend keeps him honest, and I can drain his river of beer at any time. On the other hand, a monthly Johnnie Waler may be cheaper; however, he may go blind and demand me to pay his hospital fees and disability. I don’t know what to do! Where is Egyptian Oprah when you need her?
Another interesting development is how my bawab has somehow connected my partaking in the occasional drink as an indication that I would be interested in purchasing an Egyptian prostitute. On many occasions, he touched his hands to his mobs and asked if I was interested. I did not really get the vibe that he was propositioning me, but I had no clue as to his intended meaning. Last night though, he asked me to talk to his friend over the phone, and it became clear that he was trying to simsar me a prostitute…that little devil. After telling the bawab (and his friend on the phone) that I was not interested, I abruptly left, dumbfounded by the rollercoaster that is our new-formed relationship. I guess things move quickly in Egypt.