Saturday, February 18, 2006

Business in the Middle East

I got a call on Monday (while I was in a meeting) saying I had to meet with Faisal (who works in Sharjah) on 'urgent business.' Since I can't walk out of a meeting, I said I'd call when I got home. I called, but Faisal didn't answer. While waiting for Faisal to return my call, Fahad called. Again, urgent business in Sharjah. Since I have a regular job, I eventually told both Faisal and Fahad I could meet with them for an hour (each) on Friday, which is the same as Sunday in the West. Normally, I spend Friday night from 6 until 10 preparing for Saturday's meetings, and go to bed at 10.

I arrived at Faisal's, and we had to chit-chat for an hour before we could discuss business. Finally, I mentioned the urgent business. 'Oh, it's not ready yet. I'll have it by 9:30 tonight.' Why he expected me to drop everything and come Monday, when nothing was ready by Friday, I do not know. So I left and went to Fahad's.

Fahad said he had a statistical problem he needed help solving. Actually, it's a simple problem, but the numbers, all 3,000 of them, need to be entered into Excel before Fahad can click the 'Average' and 'Standard Deviation' buttons. So I promised to find someone to enter the numbers, then I said I had to get back.

'Please, since you come all the way here, let me give you dinner. We be very quick, then I drive you home.'

I foolishly agreed. After dinner, I said I really had to be going. 'Please, just five minutes. I ask friends to meet you, they already drive one hour, they be here in five minutes.'

An hour later, 'Now I really, really have to be going.'

Fahad picked up his mobile, rang someone up, spoke in Arabic. 'Now he drive for two hours, but he lost. Now he find where restaurant and come in five minutes. After he drive for two hours, we must wait, but really, five minutes.'

An hour later, 'I'm sorry, I have to go. I'll take a taxi.'

'No, I promise I take you home, now we go.'

Only, of course, we didn't. We headed away from Dubai, trying to find the lost friend. After an hour, we found him.

'Why you tell me go left? No have left turn. How can I find restaurant?'

'I speak, "Turn left at traffic circle," left means third right.'

So we started for Dubai, only first we headed for the main road, which is the shortest route, but we got stuck in traffic. Then we did a U-turn to get away from the main road and finally made it to the deserted alternate route to Dubai.

I got home after 10:00 p.m., after a meeting that should have been over by 5:00 p.m.

And Fahad expects all the data to have been entered by this morning, after all, I had all night.


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