Last Thursday was my fourth day of my new suburban life in the El Rabwa compound in Sixth of October city, and I locked my front door keys inside the house.
Welcome to the neighborhood, I thought, as the door slammed and my brain snapped a mental image of my wallet, phone and keys, sitting on the dinning room table.
Amazingly enough I didn’t swear much! Sophie and baby Max, waited patiently on the front lawn sensing an emergency, as I rattled the door knob and looked forlornly at the door.
We had planned to stroll to the compound’s Club, take our first dip in the swimming pool and cool down from the tedium of sorting out a new house.
The day before this latch-key emergency, our neighbors rang the door bell. This sent a wave of excitement through the house, our first visitors. “Welcome to the neighborhood, our kind neighbor said, presenting herself and a beautifully wrapped tray of chocolates.
Thankfully, Mohamed the gardener had just been in to mow the lawn, so our semi-detached villa looked presentable, that’s if a villa can be semi-detached. Don’t get me wrong, I was getting around to the mowing, when he just turned up and did it. What could I do really?
So the lawn looked great, but the car was covered in dust, bird droppings and sap from the overhanging branches. I was just getting around to organizing a sponge and bucket to wash it, when, presto, a kind man was doing it for me. I mean really, what could I do?
Anyway, back to the locked door. Thankfully we have friends on the Rabwa compound so Sophie and baby Max were able to hunker down there as I went to seek out the land lord, praying that he was home.
He was home and he let out a hearty laugh and said, “No problem, we’ll fix it. And he did. After two hours of tinkering, hammering, prying and threatening the iron door with a power tool, the latch magically sprung open and we were in.
I ve started listening to Nile FM on my drive from Sixth of October to work or on my way to shop at Carrefour and Hyper One. I must say, I find the announcers great crac, with their American college campus lingo: “like – whatever – cool.
But my favorite is the female announcer on the drive time. “Wow, she keeps saying, in a honey brown tone, with a touch of amazement in her voice. The constant refrain is almost like having a pussy cat on the front seat of the car; “Wow, wow, wow.
I love driving to work through the back roads of Sixth of October. I bet Baghdad is not as bad. Roads strewn with rocks and pieces of bricks, sand drifts have to be ploughed through, random lumps of dried asphalt, but little traffic and you can zoom around the bends, a cross between formula one and a rally event.
It is all about driving and all roads lead to Hyper One. It is the oasis at the crossroads. The giant shopping trolley, like the pyramids from another age, an edifice to worship, a symbol of commercial bliss.
This is the comparison you have to avoid, because every era has to be appreciated for what it is and ours is the era of the automobile, roadside attractions, swimming pools and suburban living.
A full trolley, a full belly, it is the unattainable, you could never fill the Hyper One giant trolley, but that is our ultimate aim in suburbia. It is the collective dream to be able to buy everything and be wheeling the giant trolley.
Now being an Australian, I am very impressed with the giant trolley. Because, if you have never been, Australia is the land of the giant roadside attraction. It is both sad and kitsch at the same time.
There is the big banana, giant shrimp, a walk-thru pineapple and of course the Merino ram on the way to the nation’s capital – use Google images for a complete list.
So I understand, better than most, the giant shopping trolley. The roadside attraction I would argue is like the biblical tower of Babel; an architectural marvel touching the sky, a bridge to the heavens and the faintest hope that there is meaning to life.
Welcome to the neighborhood!