Monday, June 9, 2008

Portrait #17: Janitor on the lookout

Today's portrait just flung itself at me, shamelessly!

At the moment I am in Damascus International Airport, awaiting my three-hours-delayed flight to attend a friend's wedding in another Arab country. I'm sitting on a plastic chair pulled up against a column in the big waiting hall, with my back to a little coffee kiosk. I'm typing away at my computer which is plugged into one of the few working electric sockets at this airport. I'm enjoying a bottle of cold water at my side, and I think some coffee might be on the way. How did I get here to this dubious throne of luxury?

Well, it went like this. After sitting in the airport restaurant for a couple of hours, I decided to walk around the airport a bit. I wandered around the various waiting halls and thought I'd stop wandering if I happened to come across a place to plug in my computer. I found a plug and, fortunately, the seats around it were empty, so I took a seat and started pulling my computer and power cord from my bag. A janitor was rolling his heavy-duty mop bucket and a mop around the same area. He rearranged the trash can nearest to me and I wondered if he wanted to mop the floor where I was sitting. But instead, he came up to me, grabbed my plug and started rummaging around the electric socket.

I asked him if that electric socket works.
He said he doesn't know.
I said let's try.
He said, It's plugged in, is it working?

But it wasn't working, so he wiggled the plug a bit but it still didn't work.

He asked me if I would know for sure if it was working.
I said yes and pointed to where my computer lights up when it is plugged in.
He said, OK, we'll find you a plug.
I said, don't worry, I actually still have plenty of battery. Really, it's ok.

He wandered slowly off, dragging the mop bucket behind him, and I started to roll my wires back up. But then just when I was putting them back in my bag, the janitor came back and motioned for me to follow him. I tried to insist that it wasn't that important, but he had already turned around and started inching back towards this column where I am now seated.

He pointed to this column and to another one nearby and said, These both have sockets, let's try them.
I looked and didn't see a place to sit, so replied, I don't think I want to sit on the floor there.
He then promised, If we get you plugged in, I'll get you a chair.

One of the columns had a planter with a ledge next to it, but the plug there didn't look like it was any good. So we came to this column, my column, and tried the plug. Sure enough it worked. So he started trudging off to get me a chair and I stood by the column for a few minutes wondering what to do. He came back soon enough with a plastic chair, and so here I am.

I wondered if I was to give him a tip or something, and wasn't sure how to offer. Meanwhile, he moped around my column for a few seconds. Then he asked me if I wanted some coffee, but I refused. So he dragged his bucket off to another section of the airport.

A few minutes later he was back with a bottle of water. He opened it for me so I couldn't protest - or upon closer inspection, I discovered that he'd probably hoped I wouldn't notice that the bottle had been recently refilled from another bottle, or perhaps even from the tap. Then he wandered off again, muttering something about coffee to my protests.

Since I started writing this portrait, he has wandered by again, checking in on me and giving me a half-smile. No coffee. I'm thinking I need to give him a tip, but am not sure how to do that, since he is really acting like a guy who just wants to be nice.

And now, I hear once again the squeaking of the wheels on his mop bucket. I turn around and there he is again, this time he hands me a diet Sprite.

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