Background: Here in the capital city, we have what is called a "duty driver" who is on-call from the end of one workday until the start of the next. He's at our beck and call. Some days, he's harried and crazy-busy with airport runs, the boss's kids, and keeping up with out-of-town visitors. Other days - and today is one of them - he sits in the office and does nothing for the bulk of 16 hours. So I asked him to take me to the gym - a 5 minute drive, but not an appropriate walk for a respectable girl. He dropped me off and I asked him to pick me up at 8:00. I gymmed until 8:00. Then I went out to meet him and he wasn't there. So I called and he said he was delayed by a colleague's request. The street of the gym is a very, very dark and isolated dirt road. Since I am trying my hardest to be a respectable girl who doesn't stand alone in dark streets, I walked up to the main street and entered a supermarket. Long story short, the driver was urged by the colleague to come pick me up faster than he'd intended (he would have dropped her off and driven around a bit, leaving me waiting a good 1/2 hour), but it took a few phone calls to convince him I'd walked up the street - he waited outside the gym for me for several minutes even though I called to say I left! Finally, driver and colleague drove down to the brightly-lit supermarket and I got in the car.
It was at this point that my two personalities emerged:
1. In Arabic, to the driver, I started babbling and practically yelling, saying: "Of course I was going to walk somewhere else! PLEASE, if you're going to be late, I need to make an alternate plan: I can't wait alone on a deserted dark street! I'm a respectable girl! If I were your SISTER, would you leave me there waiting on the dark street? So I had to think of somewhere to go, and you have to understand that if you need to be late, I'm scared because I think like a girl from here, not like a foreign girl. So you have to inform me and we make another plan!" He replied and we went back-and-forth a bit, and it ended in laughter, and we are probably better friends because of it. But I did shout.
2. In English, to my co-worker, once I was done having it out with the driver, I said in a much quieter voice that I was sorry for the confusion, it's just that we had agreed that he'd pick me up at 8:00. She said she usually calls him and waits inside for him, and I explained that I felt uncomfortable doing that because the gym was already closed. We had a quiet little conversation. She subtly told me out me for shouting, and I subtly told her out for delaying the car in the first place. But very subtly, both of us, and we're still friends, maybe even better friends because of it.
On one hand, I'm proud of this little reminder of how Arab I've learned to be, demonstrating passion over subtlety, stating opinions rather than hinting at them. On the other, I'm frightened by how naturally I take on an identity with little intention or control.
What do you do when the decision that seems "right" also seems "stupid"?