Friday, February 25, 2011

My Dad is SO Arab: He likes to have "a guy" for everything

As previously discussed, my father is from the Middle East. He's a true role model for a nomad like me. He up and left his family and his childhood home to marry the woman he loved and follow his dream in America. He has fully embraced the American life, becoming a naturalized citizen shortly before I was born and just after he finished building the house I grew up in. It was a big year for the world.

Also as previously discussed, despite being in the States for more than 3 decades, my dad has a few foreign quirks the he never got rid of. Being that he's my dad, I never really thought of them as strange habits until "outsiders" like my slumber party guests and boyfriends started saying, "Does your dad always act that weird?"

Kidding. Kinda.

Before the Mister and I moved to Saudi Arabia, I was sure I would wrestle with some serious homesickness, but instead I've found some familiarity among my Saudi neighbors: my Daddy's "weird" quirks!

Here's another example of how I know my dad is SO Arab: He likes to have "a guy" for EVERYTHING!

Examples of Saudis having "a guy": When we bought our car a few months after arriving, we immediately needed to get insurance (We will get in an accident one day, here are a few reasons why). When the Mister asked around about where to get insurance, the immediate response from his colleagues was, "Oh I have a guy. I'll call him for you."

Two days later, we were fully insured. Apparently if we'd gone about it the old fashioned way (read: contacting a business based on its advertising), we would still be waiting for insurance. Dropping the name of the guy that knows the guy gets you places in Saudi!

Wednesdays are filafel day at work. One of the guidance counselors goes around and takes requests for the yummy fried wheat goodness. I decided I wanted to get in on that action, so I ponied up the cash and literally about 10 minutes later, a warm filafel was in my hand (we don't have a cafeteria, so we had to order for delivery). "WOW! That was really fast! How'd you do that?"

"I have a filafel guy."

I wasn't quite sure what to do with that information, but I certainly wasn't complaining.

Another time I mentioned that I needed to get a shirt tailored.

"Oh! Give me your number, I'll text you the number and address for my guy!"

The Mister's co-workers have a shawarma guy, a car guy, a grocery guy, a hair guy, even a guy who will come and clean the courtyard when the tiles get dusty. Saudis will even go so far as to go to a regular old store, but only speak to the employee with whom they have conducted business in the past. "No, I don't need help. I need to talk to my guy."

Examples of my father having "a guy": My dad has a car guy. I'm not sure when Daddy started patronizing his car guy, but his fidelity to this little independent garage located in the basement of an antique store in the town where I grew up is unwavering.

Daddy loves being on a first name basis with anyone, so he makes sure to frequent the same bank branch for years on end. He'll drive all the way across town just to go to his bank guy, even if there's a branch closer to where he is.

One time when I was a kid, we were on family vacation somewhere, and we were lost. Mom really wanted to pull over at a gas station and ask directions or something, but Daddy had another plan. He honked the horn and indicated for the guy in the pick-up truck next to us to roll down his window. Traffic was moving again, but Daddy yelled out his request for directions to the nearest Interstate entrance ramp.

Even though we went past a sign indicating that the interstate we were looking for was to the right, Daddy kept straight and stayed close to the guy's bumper. "What are you doing? The interstate's that way!" my flustered mom called out.

Daddy sucked his teeth, "Wait! We're going to follow my guy! He's going to take us there." In the course of 2.5 minutes, my dad had found a guy.

Thankfully that guy didn't lead us to the woods and kill us all.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and my dad--like any good Arab--loves his shawarma. Like our Saudi friends, my dad has found a shawarma guy at home (they're called gyros at home, but "gyro guy" just sounds creepy). I think he enjoys the Arabic conversation with the Iraqi owner more than the food itself, but Daddy makes sure to frequent his shawarma guy regularly.

His Arab fondness for having a guy for everything, though hilarious at times, does have one variation from the Saudi habit. In my opinion, Saudis have a guy for three reasons: 1). they like to network, 2). they like to feel powerful 3). they're a little lazy. As long as Saudis have a guy, they don't have to go to the effort of looking up the part number they need or having to describe the kind of hair cut they want.

With my dad, however, it's kind of like the old show "Cheers." You can't tell me Norm didn't like having his name called out as soon as he walked through the door. Daddy definitely loves having familiar faces greet him with a smile. He also is just a friendly guy. He likes being your guy, and he often finds his guys by being their guy in the first place.

Vicariously yours,

1 comment:

  1. You can't survive in Saudi Arabia without a guy. We call it "wasta"

    Example: A loses his passport. He doesn't have a guy. He has to wait for 4 years to get a new one.
    B loses his passport. He has a guy. He gets it in a few months.
    It's in Arabic, but you can get the point without understanding what they're saying.