I missed something

Something crazy happened around here this weekend, and I’m afraid I missed it.

See, we had something of a weird week. It was the last week of summer vacation. We’ve all long since lost our minds, so the past week was sort of a haze of who-still-needs-whats and Do-I-have-to-go-to-Carrefour moments. I don’t like retail stores. I never have liked them. I don’t like aisles, don’t like the lighting, and crowds in Dubai have a very…special…quality to them that makes me want to send my husband out with lists rather than actually venturing out.

No, I am not developing agoraphobia.

But every time–and I mean every single time–I have a retail experience, it is guaranteed to include:

  • Someone cutting the line, often directly in front of me, and usually at the fruit scale;
  • Out of control children pushing those stupid small carts–or their parents’ carts–and slamming against other shoppers as though the whole world is their abused Sri Lankan nanny/maid;
  • Foul smells emanating from meat, seafood and/or produce;
  • Far too many people operating without the most basic consciousness of what is happening around them, or perhaps simply without a care about who may be trying to navigate through an aisle while they’ve parked their trolley sideways and lined up three across in the noodle section.

And I don’t really even eat noodles.

So, I don’t go out much. My husband likes to go out. He likes to socialize with the butcher, so as long as he’s at the store, I have him pick up milk or cabbage. He’s constantly looking for new electronic garbage gadgets, and the only thing I dislike more than a grocery store is an electronics store, so I often stay home and clean while he shops. The kids go with him. I don’t mind.

On top of my distaste for shopping, we had a little car thing this week. My husband got rear-ended and as a result, the car is having some work done. At a garage. This leaves us without a car. Now, Dubai’s not the kind of place you can’t live without a car. A lot of people live just fine here without cars. There’s a Guiness-World-Record-Holding Metro (look it up; Green Line launched this weekend); a good network of buses with air-conditioned shelters; and, of course, enough taxis to keep us all on the move.

But it’s hot. Swelteringly so. So we spent most of the weekend in. I took the kids to the beach one late afternoon, and we did manage to go here and there, but I missed something, obviously.

Because this morning, I found Ganesha on the beach. Washed right up on shore, poor fellow. Hope he had a good time.

Onam is a Hindu holiday celebrated by Indians from the Kerala region. Dubai has many Keralites, and Ganesha’s appearance on the beach this morning when I arrived to swim a few lengths after a very sweaty run, was a sweet reminder of some of the happier sides of the diversity in a place like Dubai. To my neighbors, a belated happy Onam! I’m sorry to have entirely missed the festivities, and I look forward to experiencing future holidays with my eyes and ears a lot more open.

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11 responses to “I missed something

  • doctormama

    Who thought those damn little carts are a good idea? When my kids were appropriately sized to drive them I actually shopped on purpose at the one store that didn’t carry them.

    I hate shopping too, most of the time. And I live in the land of Minnesota-nice. Occasionally the crowd is worth it. Most often its worth it because giving the list to my husband for the esoteric items just is more trouble than its worth.

    • Old Mucker

      Something I never would have done in USA, but it’s true–I so hate the way the crowd works. There’s more to it than the sheer mass/volume issue. There are strange local-expat dynamics, even stranger expat-expat dynamics, and the fact that, as western-looking as this place might be at times, culturally it is not the west. It’s not. So it’s this amalgam of Middle-Eastern cultural expectations cloaked in the trappings of overdeveloped society, and the result is a confusion. What your eyes see and what is are not the same. It’s something often alluded to in Dubai-related stuff for expats, but all everyone ever says is, “things are not what you think they are.” And in fact, it is almost impossible to articulate. I thought people were withholding the information. It’s just an incedibly complex and subtle thing to try to explain.
      I’m disappointed in myself that I let it get in the way of seeing what went down for Onam, though. I bet it was pretty cool.

  • Alia Swingle

    So the big question is, did you leave him there?

  • Old Mucker

    I did. He seemed to be enjoying his time on the beach.

  • Denise

    I can SO relate to the grocery store experience. I just have to see a Marjane sign for my blood to start boiling. I LOVE the blog by the way, I really enjoy your writing.

    • Old Mucker

      Isn’t it just the worst?! We’ll drive to Satwa to go through the older, small-shop area of town to get what we need if it means we can avoid Carrefour. Hot, sweaty walking, paying for parking, bargaining for prices, just to avoid the whole herd-animal experience of the stupid hypermarket. Blech.

  • bcastleton

    You’re wrong, Jo. You didn’t miss something. You’ve found something, and I don’t just mean Ganesh. You’ve found ways to cope with annoying public places, to balance me time with family time, and to create times and places where you can exercise, ponder, and discover. That’s a lot my dear.

  • Rachel

    I hate shopping, all kinds of shopping. After raising numerous teenage boys who were very into the latest teen boy fashions, my son was a breath of fresh air. He’d walk into any department store (hated Aeropostle, thankfully) grab a few pairs of jeans and t-shirts and that was it. Total time in store was usually less than 15 minutes. He’d then roll his eyes at me when I’d make him pick out boxers, socks, and at least a couple of sweatshirts.

    When they were old enough, I gave them the allotted funds for shopping, dropped them at the nearest mall, and I’d park myself at Caribou Coffee with a book. Holidays have been made much with on-line shopping. 🙂

    I’m grateful for our local supermarket, which is open 24 hours a day, even if it means I have to miss the deli items/fish. The last time we grocery shopped during normal hours I ended up snapping at a woman at the checkout. She had the over sized cart with the riding ‘cars’ attached to the front for her children to ride in. The little cherubs were yelling at a ear-splitting volume. Mom had that well-trained talent of ignoring the children. Meanwhile, she had no concept of the size of the cart and I ended up with bruises on the backs of my legs.

    Whew, thanks for letting me vent. I certainly can’t relate to the idiosyncratic dynamics of Dubai, but some things are international: Shopping just sucks, and crowds suck.

  • aaronarthur

    Yeah, I’m going to have to disagree with you. Those tiny-carts are the best invention ever. Completely occupies my toddler, and actually quite helpful. Tyler is very well behaved with it. He goes where we tell him, and we load up his cart with groceries along the way. He loves it and doesn’t seem to bother anyone, as we get smiles from strangers the whole trip. Happy kid = happy life. 🙂

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