(1267) Tue 13 Apr 99 15:22 By: MARTY LEIPZIG
Re: Dubai doings, Part 1

Howdy campers.

Well, as some of the more astute and erudite of the gallery may have noticed, I've been away for the past 3/4'ths of a fortnight. And if you didn't, sit up and pay attention, and your mother is a cow.


Seems that a combination of an inquisitive and determined 6- year old, a blustering sandstorm and an impromptu trip the hell out of Dodge accounted for my absence here.

Well, as usual, it all started innocently enough. Daughter #1 was futzing with her new Barbie Designer CD on the computer. This, of course, completes the collection and is a welcome addition to her collation of all things Barbie; including the Barbie Porsche, Barbie Dude Ranch, Barbie Summer in the Tropics, Barbie Winter in Majorca, Barbie Bulimia Clinic, Barbie Abbatoir and Barbie Detox Center.


Well, not to be outdone, Daughter #2, the aforementioned 6- year old, who is under strict parental injunction NOT to even think about messing with the family computer without direct adult (or at least, sisterly) supervision; conveniently forgot that admonition and was simply delighted with the prospect of wasting as much ink, paper and computer printer consumables as possible as she proceeded to create an entire wardrobe for her drove of similar Barbies with all their assorted paraphernalia.

I was out in my office, listening to the old shortwave bands and having a generally fine time of things as there was a considerable storm brewing and the skip was jitterbugging across the ionosphere like a break dancer on speed. But this is not your typical sort of storm, this was the Old Testament "Let's nuke the nasty ol' pharaoh" sort of aeolian blitzkrieg; in other words, the mother of all sandstorms.

Now, for a little science lecture: the air is hovering at about 75% humidity, and the ambient screen temperature of the said air is approximately 40C. Now, into that mess, stir in winds of near 75 mph, toss in a goodly portion of the Rub al- Khali (i.e., a shitload of very fine quartz sand); and set the atmospheric blender to "frappe". The result? Tons and tons of mobile, moving, motive sand with a serious mad-on for anything stationary; all a-banging and a-zinging against each other with abandoned glee. One doesn't need an orchestra to be a conductor. One doesn't need Western Union to be wired. Nor, does one need to be an electrical engineer to see that this is going to generate some serious static electricity.

And it did.

A shocking turn of events.

After the first few crackles of lightning and the continued lowering glower of the skies, I decided that being hooked up, via an expensive world band receiver, to fully 2.5 km of wire in the form of a helical antenna, was not a good idea at all. Even though I had taken serious precautions to ground the equipment, I am not one to tempt the Fates. I yanked the antenna leads and hooked them all to my home-brew "Cantenna" (a 5 gallon oil can with an SO239 coaxial connector rigged into the aforementioned 5 gallons of crude) to dissipate any static buildup from zinging sand grains and all that copper outside the window.

As I came back into the villa, I heard the distinct whine of the Epson grinding out yet another polychromatic Barbie accouter. With all the atmospheric brouhaha brewing outdoors, even with the UPS, I figured that it would probably be best to shut the thing down and disconnect the modem, peripherals, etc., against the onslaught of errant electrons.

Good idea, albeit implemented a tad too late.

Seems the print spooler was near full capacity and grinding out outfits like a Taiwan knock-off shop. The damn thing was locked up solid with a single minded determination that make Komodo dragons seem like they have short attention spans. Short of yanking the plug, I couldn't figure out how to dump the cache and curtail printing without trashing the system in the process.

Well, my quandary was soon resolved for me by just a few extra gigawatts of electricity that your local nuclear plant would term an "unanticipated fission surplus". Seems that the wires that were designed for 220 VAC, 50 Hz, were suddenly supercharged by a few dozen mega-amps and kilovolts from the substation by a direct lightning strike. Not only did the entire west side of Doha lose power; those electrical "thingies" connected and operating at the time, were, for the lack of a better term, toast.

The final tally was one shorted UPS, one cremated computer, one zapped US Robotics modem, one trashed fax, one totaled TV and one smoked stereo.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that they were all plugged into the expensive as-all-get-out Richardson UPS which unconditionally and absolutely guarantees that all products plugged into the critter will be fixed or replaced at their expense if the unit fails to protect "it's charges" (if you'll pardon the pun; or even if you won't). I was advised of this when we relocated from the states, as the electrical supply here is primarily unfiltered, spikey and not at all conducive to long life of products which are mechanical electrovores.

Off to the Internet Cafe on the east side of town and off to Richardson Electronics went a list of things they, however unknowingly, had just purchased. I received a phone call (as the phones, being on a separate circuit, were one of the few electrical entities still working) a scant 4 hours later from Richardson telling me that: 1. Yes, I was registered with them (bless their little blow-in registration cards), 2. Yes, I was covered and 3. Yes, I should go ahead and replace everything that was now a small puddle of silicon and scrap metal and send them the bill.


Well, since all this ridiculousity was more than one person should be allowed to handle, I decided that this was just the excuse I needed to make a trip out of Doha and go somewhere (anywhere) else for some well deserved, but seldom redeemed, R&R with the family.

We chose Dubai in the UAE because it was cheap, relatively close (but distinctly less Islam-inundated), and home to the currently ongoing "Dubai Shopping Festival".

Such a deal.

I won't bore or tempt you with all the gory details of the trip but suffice to say I almost caused an international incident when the Custom's Agent had his balls swell a little too much and decided that it would be fun to taunt the large and seriously overheated American Expat (seems we arrived just in time for summer to hit Dubai with full force). Numerous verbal atrocities were committed in at least 6 languages. He'd scream at me in Arabglish, and I'd swear back in Russian (there's a HUGE Russian (Mafia) influence in Dubai). The wife would join in with German deprecations and the kids were having fun ridiculing the locals in French and Arabic; unfortunately simultaneously.

Way too much fun.

400 dirhams later, we secured our entry visas and made our way to the Renaissance Dubai Hotel, and entirely too posh and exclusive hostelry. Bidding the Custom's Agent adieu and early coronary thrombrosis; I immediately forgot him and made our way to our room, and precisely 15 minutes later, down to "Harry's Pump Room" to take my troubles out for a well- deserved swim.

The 4 days we were there passed in their typical familial delusatory fashion, what with trips to the huge malls, huger souqs and even more huge electronics and gold shops. Apart from some more verbal brouhaha with various merchants, there was not really anything of a humorous, areligious or scatological nature to report...

...well, maybe one thing...

Seems that there was this group of British footballers (soccer players to you NorthAmericanos) staying at the same hotel as we; ostensibly to participate in the ongoing "Dubai Coca-Cola Cup" soccer tournament. Fine, fine. Night three of our little vacation found me perched on a bar stool in the again aforementioned Harry's Pump Room, contemplating the fine selection of 8 English ales, porters and stout on tap and chatting it up with both the German bloke seated next to me (an engineer from BMW or Mercedes in town for the shopping festival) or the Aussie barkeep. Harry's was also the local cigar bar and I was contemplating also having the most expensive cigar of my life (A Monte Cristo double corona from Havana, 8.5" x 62 ring and nicely dark, silky wrapper) for a mere pittance of Dh148 (about US$47.00).

I selected the cigar and told the barkeep to start from the left and keep going until there were none.

"Were none what?", he inquired.

"None left.", I replied.


I was working on beer #4, blissed beyond compare. The wife and kids were lounging out by the rooftop pool, eating up both room service and my Rhodium American Express credit limit; I was smoking one of the finest cigars I've ever been privileged to smoke, chatting with 2 wonderfully affable blokes from the antipodes and sipping some of the most wonderful beer this side of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Yet, into this idyllic scene intrude four heavily inebriated and seriously pumped up on themselves British footballers. They weaved and staggered over to a table and loudly demanded service. Since it was still rather early, the waitress hadn't yet shown, so they were forced to rubber-leg it to the bar and fetch their own drinks.

I ignored these mere wisps of 30 year old testosterone as much as possible (thus securing my spot in the Don Martin old-fart curmudgeon hall of fame); fucking noisy, sloppy and boisterous bastards.

Seems that the leader of the clan took offense at my cigar's aroma and made it quite clear to all in the bar that they were thusly offended. I immediately pointed out to them that this was a Goat-damned Cigar Bar (Fer Chrissakes.) and if they didn't shut up, I'd charge them for breathing my air.

Well, this went over like a turd in a punchbowl and not only did not calm the waters, but actually seemed to irritate these blighters all the more.

As Jim Staal would say: "Bummer, dude."

Numerous pointless and prosaic invectives were hurled by this crowd of collective morons ("Pommy bastards", as the barkeep confided); which were all soundly ignored.

This infuriated them all the more.

By this time, the wonderful English beer was working it's magic on my kidneys and bladder and I decided that a quick trip to the loo was in order. As I pushed back my barstool, one of the noisier of the Poms decided that he was just bulletproof enough to stand up to the "blighter with the smelly cigar", which could have been any of the 15 patrons in the bar at the time.

Unfortunately, it was me to whom he was referring.

He jumped up, but, strangely enough, after I stood my ground, snarled a bit at him and questioned both his general intellectual capacity and familial lineage; he sort of shrunk back to his cadre of like minded morons, and immersed himself quietly in his dwindling beer.

Chickenshit. Schmuck. Dolt.

Well, after answering nature's call and returning to the bar, I was pleased to see the Poms had all sucked down the last of their drinks and had absconded. I spent the rest of the evening laughing with Stan the German, Rollo the Aussie and all the others in the bar about those drunken idiots and life in general.

Time came to settle up and leave (the cigar was on a different account and was destined to show up (or not, actually) on my hotel bill; about which I, being a good WOA did point out to them but did not run out and purchase a box of the things (although the temptation was damn near irresistible)); when Rollo told me that my bar tab was Dh0.00

"How could that be? I had at least one of every beer and a few shots of Knob Creek bourbon." I protested.

Rollo explained that he tacked my and Stan's bar bill on the tab of "those Pommy bastards" (they also gave Stan a hard time about being German or some such idiocy).

"And they paid without even batting an eyelash, the silly sods. I hope they have a serious hangover in the morning."


Now I had to stay and buy a few beers for my new best friend Aussie barkeep buddy.

You see, there are certain advantages to being an ExPat.

Cheers! Y'all.

... "And I, unlike you, you poor simian degenerate, can type legibly."-PS * Origin: FIDO QWK MAIL & MORE! WWW.DOCSPLACE.ORG (1:3603/140)


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