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Thread: Left Hand, Right Hand.

  1. #1
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Left Hand, Right Hand.

    It was sometime in 1983 that I was called to undertake the construction completion of an anti-aircraft missile defence system, for the Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation at Khamis Mushyat near the North Yemen border.

    It was one of those rush mobilisations jobs, as the existing Filipino Project Manager was in prison for gambling; at the time an illegal activity in the Kingdom.

    In fact, everything seemed to be illegal there in those days, including; alcohol, crucifix’s, Christmas cards and sex. The nightly TV news invariably showed pictures of the King sending greetings to one of his brothers in Saudi air space, the King greeting another brother at Jeddah airport, and the King on a throne surrounded by “Their Excellencies this and that”, receiving greetings from loyal subjects, all with petitions for a hand out. That’s how it worked.

    At the end of the news, one was informed that so many people had been beheaded after Friday prayers in Riyadh for; drug related incidents, armed robbery and blasphemy. A reminder that the king was determined to maintain stability in the Kingdom was followed by stirring martial music.

    You could either adapt to it or not. This was not a married status posting in exotic Singapore or Bangkok, with furnished house, live in help, kids in private schools and boozy social gatherings at embassy functions. This was doing time and getting paid hard cash for the trouble.

    Soon after arriving, I was obliged the visit my predecessor in prison; to supplement his rice diet, by both feeding him fruit through the bars and providing what succour I could before he was eventually deported.

    The site itself was in a mess. Behind schedule and a mixed Thai, Egyptian, Pinoy workforce unpaid for three months.

    But that having been explained, there were those moments of levity one of which I will now come to.

    The Client (MODA) was represented by the usual rag tag expat representative’s, whose sole mission in life seemed to be to put pressure on the main contractor, now represented by my good self.

    Weekly meetings tended to be rather acrimonious and headed by an extremely macho American called “Ed Ruckle” complete with a bristling tusky moustache and short fuse; whose tendency was to bang the table when annoyed, and call everyone “boy,” irrespective of their age. He was ably assisted by an egregious Irishman, thankfully blessed with divine patience and a sense of humour. The sole Saudi representative in white robes was one “Abu Samur” whose knowledge of construction was zero, but whose devotion to the Muslim faith was immense; having done the Haj at Mecca something like ten times.

    It was with this background of personalities in place that the weekly meeting commenced. The usual observations and threats from Ed regarding lack of progress and imminent penalties were forthcoming.

    I don’t know what it was on this occasion, but I remember that an unforeseen opportunity to tweak the lion’s tale was just too difficult to resist.

    The meeting was nearly over and we got to “Any Other Business.”

    Up I chirped, as respectfully as I could to this austere body.

    “I’ve got I problem with one of the drawings, that I think I should bring to your attention.”

    The individuals opposite viewed me with suspicion.

    “I’ve noticed on the barracks toilets we have built, that the squat basins are pointing towards Mecca!”

    “What do you mean, pointing towards Mecca?” Ed growled, confused at this obscure subject matter.

    Abu Samur perked up. At last a subject he could contribute on.

    “Well Ed,” I continued gently smiling, “If one uses the toilets in their current configuration, then one’s anus points towards the Karbala, the holiest site in Islam.”

    Abu looked shocked to the core at this revelation, leaned forward and expressed his complete disapproval at this perceived insult to the Prophet Mohammed, (Peace & Blessings be Upon His Name.)

    Driving the knife home with barely suppressed glee, I continued,

    “So, Ed, what is your decision? If we have to break out the toilets and turn them around, this will obviously need a works variation order and an extension of contract time!!”

    Ed was cornered and furious. Contract obligations he was well versed in; but foreign religious obligations to a son of Utah raised in the Mormon faith, and forced reluctantly once a week by a pious wife to attend the services of, was swimming beyond his depth.

    The Irishman as always was constructive with rather nimble footwork.

    “But what if instead of positioning oneself in one direction on the squat, you approached it from an opposite 360 degrees? “

    “Ah,” said I, “In which case you will have a problem with the hand spray wash.”

    By now, Ed was colouring up, the veins on his neck visibly elevated.

    “What’s the problem with the hand wash?” he asked.

    I endeavoured not to talk to him as an indulgent child.

    “Well Ed it’s like this. In the Middle East Muslim tradition, the right hand is for eating, and the left hand is reserved for cleaning one’s posterior. The current toilet configuration allows for the hand spray to be taken with the right hand and applied to the bottom, assisted there in removing faeces by the left hand. By approaching the toilet from east to west, as opposed from west to east, you have a reciprocal religious and social conflict with hand positioning and function.”

    Abu Samur expressed his appreciation of my understanding of the dilemma involved.

    Ed exploded.

    “Left hand, right hand, Karbala’s, squats. I’ve had enough. We will look into it. Meeting adjourned.”

    Yet I could not resist extending the courtesy of a blindfold & last cigarette.

    “Could I get a copy of the minutes of meeting please at the earliest opportunity to see that they truly reflect the discussion taken place today?”

    I dived for the door.

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Wonderfull, Manichean!I can quite imagine the scene.

    And long live the chemical toilets!
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    In fact, everything seemed to be illegal there in those days, including; alcohol, crucifix’s, Christmas cards and sex.
    Another gem, M. (I'd like to hear the Yank's version, though. ;-))

  4. #4
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Another gem, M. (I'd like to hear the Yank's version, though. ;-))

    My God, Man, you are one funny Dude. These clashes of culture, who can figure them out? You, that's who, one of their representatives.

  5. #5
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Actually buddy, it is a true story.

    Looking back though it brings a smile.

    Take care
    M

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