You get what you give. Or so they say.
A few weeks ago, during one of the seven million and ten public holidays we seem to have in Egypt, I decided that I would take my laptop and go work in a bar. This is after years of trying to do the same in cafés or coffee shops and deciding that going out and not having alcohol is pretty stupid. I’ve found beer is much more conducive for at least getting ideas down. Who was it that said ‘write drunk, edit sober’? Hemingway? S. Thompson? Paris Hilton?I don’t know, but that motherfucker is a genius. I was at the very start of my drunken reverie and ignoring my friend that had forced himself on my intellectual musings (by that I mean a corporate presentation). Bored of his phone, he struck up a conversation with a lovely, older black woman sitting at the table next to us.
Snippets of their conversation floated my way. “Evicted,” she said. “Stole my money,” she said. “Can’t go back to my country,” she screech-whispered, holding back tears. I was intrigued. While I was working on corporate presentations, a real life black woman was about to start crying on the table next to me. Was I Maury Povich? Should I yell out “HE’S NOT THE FATHER!”? Was this Oprah in disguise? Was she going to give me a car? Obviously any semblance of focus was out the window. I put on my therapist face, looked up and said “Is everything ok?” (It took all of my energy not to hand my friend my phone and force him to tape the whole thing).
So she told me. Something happened to her “beloved” or something. Then she bawled and I was fascinated. She told me how she was originally Eritrean but grew up in Sweden and she was from a good family but she had been robbed in this “Godforsaken country”. I ordered her a cappuccino, complimented her earrings and the waiter got me another beer without any prompt (he’s the best). She told me that she just wanted to go home, how she wanted to just leave Egypt once and for all and forget all of these people. It was like a real life reality show. I was gripped. Would a film crew pop out? Would I be discovered? Then she was like, “Look at my ticket home to Sweden, I need 300LE to change my ticket and I don’t know what to do.”
My heart went out to her. But then I got over it. Obviously a film crew and the Kardashians weren’t going to pop out from anywhere. I had 300LE. I could just give it to her. I would. Because Lord only knows it’s very likely I’m going to be stuck in a bar at some point in my life and someone just like me would be bored, buy me a coffee and send me on my way. It was two birds with one stone; kill the situation and add a very good negotiation tool to my conversations with karma. Also, my deadline was looming and if I was out LE300, I should definitely get back to work.
So I bought her a club sandwich, gave her the money and then she told me she was going to include me in her book (naturally, this bitch was a writer). I told her I would include her in my book and we laughed, she cried a little more and then she bounced and I forgot about her. Then suddenly I was super giving. It was like maybe my ticket out of here was being really altruistic. So I treated my best friend to lunch a few times and did nice things like giving her the nice pictures on the pack of cigarettes and keeping the foot. I answered my phone. I gave my friend a belt. I tried to walk both dogs a few times. I tried to hug my mother, but it made her uncomfortable, so I bought her chocolate instead. Being nice was amazing. People were leaving me alone! Beggars left immediately. It was like this magic world.
Then I didn’t find my size of these amazing sneakers at Nike. Then when I did find my size, a salary cut prevented me from buying them. Then nobody offered to buy me a ticket to Sweden. Then it was all like, this can’t seriously be happening when I keep giving. Then my vicious streak kicked in and I started saying really mean things to everyone. It was really strange, cause I was in a really Zen state of mind, but I just kept saying really vicious things. Then nobody talked to me for two days and I tended to my beard (few of you will know that brushing a beard with a fine tooth comb is one of the most relaxing things you can ever do). My point is, give back but know your priorities.
This is why I shall continue investing in the biggest charity I know; myself. I’m holding a fund raiser to benefit me. Does $40,000 a plate seem good? I’ll get some chef or another to donate their skills, open up the balcony and call in a favour from Hajj Ibrahim the alcohol dealer. You don’t even have to RSVP. You don’t even have to show up. Just make your cheque out to The Hassan Hassan Foundation of Something to Do with Art, Culture, Growth, Peace, Love & Happiness. We also accept money transfers or depositsinto HA55NT4ST at HSBC. Thanks… We’ll tell you the time and place when we get your donation. See you there (or not, really. I’m only after your money).