Monday, August 25, 2008

Let the good times roll...

Yesterday the kids and I went over to the new house to receive deliveries of a dishwasher, a stove (known here as a "cooker") and a refrigerator. Perhaps you'd be surprised to know that the most expensive of the three was the dishwasher. I can't swear that it's a luxury item, but I can tell you that in the stores there are lots of choices as to liquids for washing dishes by hand but very, very few options for automatic washers.

Speaking of washing dishes, Graham put my mind more at ease when he told me that three of the ladies from his dinner party stayed behind to clean up the dishes (which he said he couldn't bear to watch and therefore went out to the living room for an after-dinner drink; Graham's a crafty planner, I must say), and left him with just the pots and pans, which took him much of the next day.

I had tried the previous day to get through to the store where we bought our appliances, to no avail. Finally, in the morning, someone picked up and assured me that the delivery men would call half an hour before delivery to make sure we were there. Great! We wouldn't have to loiter in an essentially empty house all day hoping someone would show up. By 9:30 my mobile was ringing like crazy with each appliance having a separate delivery person calling to set up a time, as well as the gas man calling to set up delivery of gas tanks for the cooker. The cooker delivery guy had told him we were getting a new cooker, passed along my number, and there, gas was taken care of. Handy.

Expensive too: 1,080 Dhms for 2 tanks plus another 150 for changing them out each time. I am hoping the 1,080 is a sort of deposit on the tanks and that it's just 150 for each fill, rather than a service charge, but we'll see. Either way I'll get a receipt and submit it to the company, cost of living, oh darn.

While we were waiting Bethy discovered an extra occupant in the storage room. Here is another, as usual, rather poor quality, short film of what happens when big creatures encounter little creatures: Gecko in the House. You may want to turn the volume down, again, with my apologies to more sensitive viewers.

The dishwasher showed up first, the installers being careful to thoroughly explain to me all of it's wonderful features and also the funnel for, and where to put in, salt. This "salt" phenomenon is new to me, and requires some research. There is a funnel under the sink in our hotel kitchen too, and I had wondered what it was for. Thomas is enamoured with it. I'm sure I can just go to the store, locate the "salt", read the box (pray for English, Inshallah, thus far a strategy that has worked well) and go from there.

Next came the cooker, and this is where things started to get interesting.

It seemed to go in all right, and the 2 electrical elements worked great, but when they turned on the gas and tried to ignite it with the little clicker, nothing happened. Click, click, click. The three tried pushing the button repeatedly, one taking over for the other and then finally the lead cooker man, Ahmed, tried, to no avail. Click click click click click. I could smell the gas.

"Kids, time to go in the other room," I said, backing away.

"But why, Mommy?"

"Just come with Mommy please."

I got them seated in the living room, 2 rooms and a seriously built wall in between, but close enough to hear if the delivery men called me or any sorts of whooshes that would indicate a call to 999 was in order. Click click click. We read a story, I hopped up to quickly (and I hoped discretely) to open some doors and windows, and read the kids another story, by which point Thomas was clicking back at the deliverymen from my lap.

Madam, could you come here please? They showed me the gas pipe from the wall just before the extended part of it broke off and fell to the floor. Now, if your gasline looks like this you should probably not have gas coming in through it. Maybe it's just me, but I have a certain fearful respect for flammable vapors...

There was an animated discussion amongst the three, I think concerning to whom this problem should be given. Reaching a verdict, they informed me that the gas man would have the correct tools and piping and would be able to fix it, no problem, no problem. He would be here in 20 minutes they said, and scuttled away.

The gas is turned off, right? I asked.

Oh yes, yes, Madam, all turned off, all is safe Inshallah.

Allah willing? This was not entirely confidence inspiring, so as soon as they were out of sight I sneaked out to make sure both tanks were securely off, which to their credit they were.

Gas man was back. "No, madam, I cannot fix this. You must call somethingsomethingsomething."

"I'm sorry, call who?"

Somethingsomethingsomething. Obviously this was a name everyone but me knows.

Emaar? Ahmarr? Who? "Could you write this down for me please?" I asked him, trying to give him a pen and paper.

He backed slowly away and apparently had a saving thought. "Talk to the gate guard Madam. They will help you." and escaped.


Nearly an hour after the predicted time range for the refrigerator delivery had passed, the oven box rescued from the curb and refashioned into a playhouse, the house clear of gas fumes, my mobile rang again. "We are 20 minutes away Madam."

I was beginning to see a pattern with this 20 minutes thing.

I told them that I'd leave the villa open and that I was going to go get the increasingly tired and squirrely children some sort of sustenance and be back. "Yes Madam, 20 minutes."

35 minutes later, now armed with his mobile number I called Refrigerator man back "Only 5 minutes more, Madam, we are almost there."

The refrigerator showed up...and it had a dent. And it had a teal-colored handle, stuck out too far and was too narrow for the spot. In other words, it looked terrible. After my becoming a total, though polite, pain in Refrigerator Man's neck, he agreed to talk to his supervisor about the dent, though he stopped his co-worker from taking a picture of it with his phone. He also did a lot of smiling and nodding and tried to get me to sign the "received in perfect condition" form. I wrote on it "dent in side" before signing, figured that couldn't hurt, even as he extolled the smallness of the dent and the attractiveness of the unit. After they left I took a deep breath, stepped back, and looked at the refrigerator. Nope, I was right, it really did look terrible.

Refrigerator man, who was undoubtedly regretting that I had his mobile number, got another call. I told him that I wanted to send the refrigerator back and that I would go to the store and pick out a different model. When he finally got that I wasn't accepting teal-handle dent version, he thought he had it solved. "No problem, no problem, Madam, I can come tomorrow and take away this one and bring you a new one, exactly the same, you will like it." I was very firm and repeated myself a lot, trying to find the easiest way to help him understand what I wanted was a different, wider refrigerator that would fit better in the spot. We repeated ourselves back and forth several times, me wishing he'd at least turn down the music on his end, and I think we finally came to an agreement.

Then he said "You must bring back inside the box."

Oh, great, the box that had just gone with the rubbish collectors, tied on top of a heap of tree branches and other detritus, that box?
I raced after the truck which had just started away, mobile in hand, trying to explain to Refrigerator Man as I chased down Trash Removal Guys. "Please, please, I need that box back!" The three workers stopped and looked perplexedly down at me. I tried to give them the phone, all the while pointing to the box. "Talk to this man, please, I need the box, please give me back that big box. Min fadlak, min fadlak."

Somehow I managed to convince them to give back the box, thanking the bemused and slightly worried looking workers. I dragged my prize back into the lair and propped it up against the wall to prevent any further disposal attempts.

Despite ominous warnings from other expats, a simple call to the agent who'd found and organised the lease of our house quickly had the landlord on the phone to me by the time we got back to the hotel, calling from Iran, no less. He apologized for not having checked the pipes, (who would?) I expressed relief that the house had not blown up, and he said he would send us the excellent man who had painted the house and was good at fixing many many things. What is his name? I asked.
After a prolonged silence, our landlord gave an embarrassed chuckle. "You know", he said, "I have no idea. But I will call him, and you pay him and I shall reimburse you." He called back a few minutes later to tell me this man would be there in half an hour. So I packed the kids back up and headed out again, meeting Mike at the house. Matloob turned out to be the fellow's name, and he and his two workers (again, I am seeing a pattern), after extended examination of the problem, came to the conclusion that though they'd replaced the broken part of the pipe, they would need to come back the next day and remove a portion of the tile to examine the pipe further back in the wall as the gas was still leaking out somewhere.

Mike and I agreed this was a good plan and went home.
Oh, and the gecko? No worries. He's happily living outside in the garden, unless he used the secret gecko door to come back into the house. I'd guess he was probably very glad of the chance to escape the attentions of the children and their mother.


Jean said...

Some things are universal. The delivery guys in Dubai obviously work to the same rules as the delivery guys here -- always just 20 minutes away and always reluctant to admit that anything might be wrong.

As for the gecko -- glad he made it out alive.

Natalie said...

That poor gecko. I was sure he was gecko pâté. They are so beautiful up close, all creamy and speckled, once you make loud noises and stomp them to stun them into complacancy so you can get a closer look. This should only be performed by professional gecko stunners, of course. Don't try this at home!