A Day in Dubai

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'd just finished my longest, hottest and best shower in two months and was drying off my leathery brown birthday suit when I saw the photograph on the wall of the swimming pool change-room. The photo was of a naked man, a posing pretty-boy naked man with slicked back hair. A big pink X covered his private parts. 'The Arab world isn't openly into this', I thought to myself as I walked towards the photo.
The caption at the top of the photo read, "Nudity is Strictly Prohibited in This Area."
I panicked. For a brief moment I thought I was somewhere else. I wondered if jet-lag might somehow have cast me into a fugue and that I'd wandered back onto the pool deck. Then I thought of the British couple that had been thrown in irons in Dubai a few months back for some sort of sexual misconduct on the beach. Finally I got a grip and realized I was in the men's change room. But where the Hell was my locker key? I rammed my hand into the pocket of my swimming trunks and found nothing. Then I felt the key in the other pocket, but the key ring had become entangled in the pocket webbing. With a hand full of swimming trunks, all the time thinking about a dark jail cell with a smelly hole in the centre of it, and no toilet paper, I was suddenly able to get the key into the lock and retrieve my clothes.

Rashid is from Delhi. He's the manager, chef, cleaner, receptionist and all-round trouble shooter at our small hotel. Rashid works twelve hours a day, seven days a week. He gets a month off once a year to visit his wife and children back home. And he's happy. He says he could never provide for his family in Delhi the way he can in Dubai. Every hotel or restaurant that Ellen and I entered in Dubai was staffed by foreigners. Most of them probably do a 12/7 shift just like Rashid, and like a carrot on a stick get the same vacation package as he does.

It's All Coming Back To Me Now. Perhaps They Were Men in Black.

We left Toronto for India back in mid-January. Our flight had a scheduled stop-over in Dubai. As we left the Toronto terminal building and entered the narrow ramp that led to the door of the airplane a German Shepherd with a man hooked onto a leash came up to me and nuzzled me hard to the groin. Moments later a plain clothed officer with a name tag from some government department or other stepped forward and began grilling me.
"Where are you going, sir?" he asked while studying my passport.
"India. For two months," I answered with a grimace. "Is that your bloody dog?"
"No sir. Can I please see your wallet, sir?" he said, padding me down, missing only the area that the dog had already inspected.
"How much money are you taking with you on this trip, sir?, he asked as I opened my wallet, and then continued, "Are you aware that it is illegal to take funds in excess of $20,000.00 out of Canada.
I removed a stack of U.S. $20.00 bills from my wallet and fanned them in front of him. "No I didn't know that." then answered his first question. "I have $400.00."
"Do you expect to be able to travel in India for two months with only $400.00, sir?"
My balls were still sore from the dog and the man's patronizing questions were beginning to cause tension in the back of my neck. I showed him my TD/Canada Trust ATM card and said, "I'm going to try using this. I'm told that if you place it in a slot in certain banking machines in India, then key in a series of numbers, that these machines will give you money."

He looked into my eyes with the stare of an android and said simply, "Thank you, sir. I hope you enjoy India."

I looked about and there were approximately ten of these droid-like, short-haired men questioning both the young and old alike. No one looked quite as sore as I felt.
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