Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Service Me Do

One of the great things about living in a Middle Eastern country is that they are all very keen on service. You go into a bar, any bar, and a waitperson will come and take your order. You go to a supermarket, and someone will put all your purchases into a bag (actually six bags, which ticks me off somewhat, and ticks them off when I won't let them do it). And you go to a petrol station: not only will an attendant put the stuff in for you, he will also wash your windows.

Now, you may have guessed that I am not a big fan of driving, and I do try to keep it to a minimum. With the essential driving that I have to do, I will use a tankful of petrol each week. But whenever I go to a gas station, I will only ever buy Dhs 20 worth - that's about half a tank - unless I'm planning to do a big trip, like Abu Dhabi or Umm Al Quwain. The reason I do this is that I am a cheapskate and a Yorkshireman (same thing, many would say!). No, that's not the reason. It's because the sand in the atmosphere here will cling to your car, and after about five days of normal weather you cannot see out of the windows. So, every three and a half days I go to a petrol station, spend my Dhs 20, and get my windows washed for free!

Last week's 'almost running out of gas' episode has caused a bit of a problem. I was so overwhelmed at the time that I bought a full tank, and gave the guy a hefty tip (yikes! Banned from Yorkshire forever!). So now the car is still almost full of petrol, and this morning I was having a hard time seeing through the windscreen. I had to resort to using the wipers. 'Big deal' you're thinking, but the problem is that because of the heat here, the rubber of the wiper blades lasts approximately three weeks, so when you use them in dry weather, you run the risk that, a) the blades are so perished that they just spread muddy grooves across the glass, or, b) the washer liquid has all evaporated and bits of surviving wiper blade pick up grit that cuts semi-circular grooves into the glass. Or, in my case, c) a combination of the first two; there is liquid and bits of the blades have survived. So I end up with semi-circular streaks on the windscreen that I can barely take my eyes off. I pull into the nearest Enoc, and ask them to 'fill it up'. The attendant is astonished that it only takes six Dirhams to fill this car! But now I have clean windows.