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Passwords, Farts, and Things

This week, Nadia El-Awady contemplates some very serious life issues such as matching up usernames and passwords, traffic police mentality, and neck hair.

I have used this week for contemplation. Below are some of the deep questions I’ve been considering:

Which password did I use with what username??

I’ve been very stressed by how digitalized my life has become.

I’m a woman who does not remember her children’s dates of birth (I’m not kidding). Yet I’m required to remember various usernames and passwords for several social networking websites I belong to, the various email accounts I have, the online versions of my bank accounts, and almost any electronic gadget I own. I have to remember PIN numbers for my bank cards. When I’m traveling I need to remember what funky code I used for my in-room security safe. At work there are codes that need to be used to access the outside phone line and phone numbers that need to be remembered. I need to remember what logic I used when I saved a certain Word document on my computer in order to find it again. I recently bought an Apple computer and now I have to remember my Apple IDs: the one I created for the Egypt shop and the one I created for the U.S. shop. I also had to set up my various gadgets (the printer, the camera, the video camera, etc.) to my new computer, so I needed to remember where I put all the installation CDs. Heck, I needed to remember what gadgets I even had that needed to be set up on my new computer!  And then there are the cords. So many electrical cords! I need to remember where I put them all and which cord belongs to which gadget. I subscribe to a few online newspapers, research journals, and the likes. I have to remember usernames and passwords for those. Even the digital receiver I have at home has a code that you need to enter in order to access the menu. I have a diving computer (which is similar to a watch but it gives you information such as depth, time spent under water, water temperature, etc.) and I need to remember the sequence of buttons I need to press in order to input various variables according to the dive I’ll next be making.

Last month I went to an ATM machine to find out how much money I had in my bank account (I WILL name names. The bank is the CIB). Based on the amount the ATM machine said I had, I bought a computer with my debit card and left some 600 EGP remaining in the account. The purchase went through at the store. Two weeks later the bank calls me and tells me that I didn’t actually have that amount in my account. According to the bank, the ATM machine lied and the card machine made a mistake by taking money out of the account that wasn’t really there. And now I owe the bank a huge sum of money!

This is all driving me nuts!

Results of my deep thoughts on this issue: Severe anxiety. Solution: relieve my stress by meditating about the bigger questions in life (see below) and defame any fucking institution that pulls a low one on me by blogging the heck out of them.

Who is holding up the fucking traffic again?!

The traffic police are back on the streets in my neighborhood: Al-Haram. And what are they doing? THEY ARE FUCKING BLOCKING THE TRAFFIC IS WHAT THEY ARE DOING! Every time there is a huge traffic jam on Haram Street I now know what to expect the cause to be. Yesterday the traffic was so jammed that I had to park my car on the side of the road and walk the rest of the way to the shop I needed. On the way, I came across the bottleneck that was holding up the traffic and this is what I saw: ten traffic officers of various ranks were standing in the middle of the road. One low ranking officer was standing waving his hand to direct the traffic through. Another seven were lined up with their backs to the cars parked on their side of the road doing nothing but blocking traffic and watching it. There was a huge tow truck also adding to the bottleneck. Microbuses were stopping just ahead of the traffic officers – also IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD – to let off passengers. I was so angry that I went up and talked to one of the higher-ranking officers to give him a piece of my mind. I told him they were holding up traffic. He said we’re just doing our job, ma’am. Eh?

Results of my deep thinking on this issue: I will continue to bitch about Cairo traffic and Cairo traffic police until President Morsi himself hears my voice and does something about this.

Please list every fucking country you’ve visited in the past ten years and tell us what year your mother was born…

On February 11, 2011 when we toppled Hosni Mubarak, one of the first things I told myself as we were celebrating in Tahrir was, “I’ll bet you we won’t need to apply for visas to go to other countries anymore! We’ll be respected everywhere in the world now!” Man, was I wrong. One of the most humiliating things in the world is applying for a visa. You are asked to give up every single bit of personal information there is on you. You spend days collecting the documents that you are required to submit along with your visa application. You grovel after the visa appointment center, trying to set a time to submit your visa application that fits with your schedule (after all, you ARE a busy person yourself) and that gives enough time for the three week visa acceptance process to happen before your actual trip. In order to leave this country on business or holiday EVERYTHING needs to be planned weeks and sometimes months ahead of time. Then you go to the embassy and you are required to stand in line in the scorching sun until your appointment time comes. You are eventually allowed to enter after being searched as if you are some sort of criminal, leaving all your electronic gadgets behind, only to wait for another extended period of time for someone to look through your visa application documents. I’m one of the lucky ones and I’m complaining. I’m not a single, male, 20-something-year-old trying to apply for a visa. Heck, even some of my single, female 30-something-year-old friends have been denied visas for no obvious reason.

Solution: Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that embassies need to meticulously filter through applicants to make sure they aren’t a high-immigration risk. But for those of us who have hundreds of visas in our passports from hundreds of previous trips and have ALWAYS come back to Egypt when we said they will, can’t there be some sort of a database that documents this and then simply gives such individuals automatic visas? Don’t tell me this is too electronically complicated. I just finished complaining about how digitalized our lives have become.

You will not tell me how to live my life!

This week I’ve been thinking about how societies have conditioned us to think certain ways. An example that will resonate with many of you is how we’re conditioned regarding the roles of men and women in society. I’ve been kept up late at night this week wondering about this: Why has society conditioned us to hold in our farts? Farts are vile gasses that can tear up your insides. Holding them in is dangerous to your general wellbeing.

Solution: I’ve thought long and hard about this deep philosophical question and have decided to rebel against society. As long as I am in a big room with decent ventilation or in an open area, I am going to let my farts rip. I will pretend that any consequential smells did not emanate from me. And I will feel much better about myself for doing what makes mecomfortable. Next time you see me walking by in the mall, expect there to be invisible yet smelly gaseous clouds trailing behind me.

Hello! Where did you come from?

I used to have one coarse hair that dangled from the middle of my neck. I love pulling at it. It’s soothing. When it becomes too long I pull it out with my bare fingers. This week I found a new hair on the side of my neck. This was totally unexpected. I’m not sure how I feel about this new hair. On the one hand, it gives me more of a chance to soothe my hyper-digitalized nerves by pulling on not on one but two neck hairs. On the other hand, it doesn’t look very pretty and I understand this is an indication that I’m getting older (as if I needed more indication…note: sagging boobs).

Solution: continue to pull, soothe and pluck until neck hair number three appears and then reconsider.

Don’t you dare look at me that way!

Rarely will you hear me talk about positive things. I’m a complainer. So is almost every single Egyptian I know. You know why we complain all the time? It’s the evil eye. YOUR evil eye. We’re avoiding it. I am not going to go around telling people all the good things happening in my life just to be hit with the stinging rays from your evil eye and have these good things suddenly vanish.

Solution: I don’t care how educated I am. I do everything possible to avoid the evil eye. If I’m planning a trip and you somehow hear about it and ask me, “So where are you going?” I’ll reply, “Away.” If you press me and ask, “Away where?” I’ll say something like, “Oh, just away. I have ‘stuff’ to do.” If you continue to nag and ask me, “Certainly you know WHERE you’re going?” I’ll say, “Well, it’s all up in the air at the moment. There’s so much to do and there are so many reasons why it might not work out anyway. We’ll see.” And all the while I have mental images going through my head of five fingers being raised in your face, me touching wood, reading Qur’anic verses of protection, and frantically digging around in my head for the turquoise gemstone shaped as an eye that wards off evil eye rays. So back off already. Just back off!