Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Portrait #46: Little Boy

I have a friend here who just so happens to know quite a few young men, chaps who are several years younger than herself. She knows them from work and from her studies, and they are nice people, but they are quite young and rather immature. She often refers to them as "walad saghir" - Little Boy. Grown up and yet still very young.

Another character from my border-crossing taxi experience would definitely qualify as "walad saghir". He introduced himself by saying, "You and your friend are so skinny, what do you do, eat nothing but salad?" And that may have been the most mature comment he made all day.

He and his friend decided that since we are foreigners we should flat-out give them money, or at least give them money to buy them and ourselves some breakfast. But we weren't hungry, so they went and bought loads of food on their own dime and tried to share it with us - to fatten us up. They said that there's no point trying to live these days, there's no hope of getting married anytime soon, life is work-eat-sleep with little chance for distraction in between. They were justifiably frustrated and figured that the answer was for one of us to marry them - just long enough for them to get a visa to our respective countries. That's easy enough, isn't it?

When we got to the Duty-Free Shop, things got very interesting, when our Little Boy decided that he would recover a bit of his expenses in travelling across the border for 9 hours (yes, he was only here for a total of 9 hours before catching a taxi home) by buying cigarettes at the Duty Free and selling them back home. He said the cigarettes were for his family, but no one in the car believed him.

The problem was, all his cash was in the wrong currency. He asked if we'd change it for him and at first I said no. Then he was desperate so I asked him how much. It was an enormous amount of cash, so I reiterated that the answer was no. He said, "Half that, then, just enough for me to buy the cigarettes." So we started talking exchange rate, and no one has ever offered me such a terrible exchange rate in my life!

I ended up taking pity on him and putting the cigarettes on my credit card, having him pay me back in the correct currency when we got to the other side of the border - in the meantime I would own four boxes of cigarettes (one per passenger, which is the customs limit). He wanted me to buy two litres of vodka as well, but that was a bit too racy for me... with much begging of everyone standing near the duty-free cashier, he managed to recruit someone else to purchase the alcohol.

Then he and his friend got into a fight and his friend disappeared. With his friend gone I now owned a pack of cigarettes that would be confiscated. So I started worrying, and began to panic when he left the car as well - in search of his friend and also in search of an official who could explain to him what exactly the duty limits were.

In the end, the cigarettes got in fine, he paid me back and all was good - until my friend got taxed on her alcohol purchase because (a) she didn't know the rules, and (b) our Little Boy had raised the custom official's attention. He came to us demanding 12 JD - a large sum on two packs of beer. We refused to pay, but he dragged us around the facility until an official told us that yes, my friend did owe duty and it was even more than 12 JD... The Little Boy turned to accusing us, somehow.

Then he accused me of demanding too much money of him when he paid me back for the cigarettes. But he was confused and when I explained the expense breakdown to him, he was convinced and apologised. He counted and fretted over his vodka and cigarettes and chatted at the poor driver the whole way into town about customs and duty free and travelling and marriage.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Wow, Katie, sounds like the Twilight Zone.

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