Friday, January 8, 2010

He said his name was Rupaul

He wasn't a drag queen. He was the Bangladeshi equivalent of a CPA. And before I met him, my toaster caught on fire.

Yeah, it's been a weird day.

We returned from Britain and discovered that our Audi's battery was deader than the Chiefs' playoff hopes. And, as is tradition here in the UAE, there was no easy way to go about getting it taken care of. Call a tow truck? Sure... and then spend a half-hour just reciting landmarks to try to get the driver in the vicinity of your car.

Buying a battery seemed the easier route, but there was a catch: The car had some kind of fancy anti-theft system built into it that made the radio inoperable if it were disconnected from the battery, even for a short period. To reactivate it, you had to enter a four-digit code. This code was conveniently stored in the car manual... or it should have been. None of the previous owners had written it down.

Tough choice. But we needed wheels. And that's how I ended up talking to Rupaul.

He works at the stationery shop next to the place where I bought the car battery. After haggling for a throw-in oil change, I was stuck there on foot for a bit and he came out to see what was going on, stapler sales apparently being pretty flat.

Interesting guy. Kind of a study in capitalism. His uncle works in Italy; his brother works in Germany; he has a cousin in Chicago. He was an accountant back home and has a degree in business. But, as he pointed out, he could come here and make 17 times more than he could back home. So he has committed to a three-year plan: Sell paper and file folders, send most of the money back home to his wife, and count the days.

In the meantime, he said, "I watch expensive cars go by."

Not a bad attitude. And maybe his positive outlook rubbed off on me--when I restarted the car, the stereo clicked on too.

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