Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The day of the dead battery

I don't even know where to begin. Try to take in these facts all at once, and then I'll continue:
  • It's 108 degrees outside.
  • It's the last week of the semester = SUPER BUSY JEREMY.
  • Miriam's school had a Sports Day this morning and invited all the parents to come watch.
  • Super Busy Jeremy took 60 precious minutes of his day to attend Sports Day, because it was a Big Deal to Miriam.
  • Magdalena was inexplicably grumpy this morning, complete with clinginess and an inclination to fall asleep in the car if given five minutes put together, and call it a nap.
Ready? OK.

After said Sports Day, Jeremy, Magdalena and I walked back to the car and - tada! - the battery was dead. I had to suppress the sarcasm in me that threatened to surface and deadpan, "Well, at least it's not blazing hot outside and at least you're not in a hurry to get back to your office and at least Magdalena isn't super fussy. OH, WAIT."

On the bright side, there were the facts that a) the umbrella stroller was in the trunk, so at least we wouldn't be forcing our 2.5-year-old on a 108-degree death march; and b) that our house was only a kilometer away. So we walked - Jeremy to his office, Magdalena and I to the house - and we made it, albeit drenched in sweat. From there, Jeremy arranged for a friend to take me to our car, jump it, and then lead me to a place where we could get a new battery put in.

I have to pause here and say that it's times like these that really bring home the fact that the UAE is different from any other country in the Middle East that I've lived in. In Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, there are very few places you can go to take you out of the bustle and turmoil and heat and energy of everyday life. You step outside your door, and you're THERE. In the UAE, on the other hand, there are pockets of calm. We live on a college campus with reduced vehicular traffic. Even off-campus, in some areas of town, there are landscaped medians, and lane markers on the roadways (even if they are often ignored), and tidy strips of off-road parking. You know, the little things that tell you that all is not chaos, and what chaos there is might just have a method behind it.

An adventure like today's thrust me into a world more like Syria, a crowded, dusty free-for-all where nothing is tidy and there is constant motion and everyone is yelling at everyone else, but stuff gets done because that is how they roll.

My friend led us into one of Sharjah's industrial districts to the repair garage where he takes his own car. I maneuvered my car into a wedge of free space to park, unloaded Magdalena from her car seat during a lull in traffic, and headed to where I thought I'd seen my friend go inside.

Magdalena and I stepped out of the sun into the still-sweltering shade, into a garage filled with laborers working on cars in various states of disrepair. Everyone immediately looked up at us. I suppose we were a strange sight - an American lady with her toddler. The owner seemed absolutely mystified at our appearance but ushered us into his auto grease-stained office to wait. He even turned on an AC unit in the corner, but it was still dang hot in there. A little while later, one of the laborers brought Magdalena a lukewarm carton of Laban Up, because for sure what you want when it's 100 degrees in the shade is warm, salted, plain, liquid yogurt.

Anyhow, it was very nice of them and also extremely awkward because right then, my friend showed up and said I was waiting in the wrong garage. So we told the workers thanks for the AC and the Laban Up and then walked right out of there. Whoops.

Together, we procured a new battery from a shop down the street, and then had it delivered (immediately, right there in front of us) to the right garage to be installed. The shop owner there was a German man, and I can only imagine what kind of interesting life he leads, surrounded as he is in that district by Pakistanis, Indians, and Arabs.

About twenty sweaty minutes later (during which I failed to successfully explain to Magdalena the concept of "Sweetie, no, I cannot hold you because the heat of your tiny self against me may cause me to spontaneously combust,"), we were good to go. The only challenge left was to keep Magdalena awake for the entire car ride home - and I succeeded by pumping her full of snacks from my purse.

Our friend who helped us said that car batteries tend to not last very long here. Let's hope that the next time this happens, it's in January, not almost-June.


Crys said...

Her little face is so red :)

Liz Johnson said...

Oh wow. I am so sorry. I cannot even imagine that kind of heat.

Bridget said...

It was hard to be in that garage for half an hour because of the heat. I can't imagine actually working there for the whole day.

Katie said...

What a horrible day. On the bright side of things, her hair cut is to DIE for! So stinkin' adorable!

Grace said...

Ay-yay-yay! The heat just sucks the life out of car batteries. Mine would only last maybe 2 years at most when I lived in Arizona.

Kathy Haynie said...

Someday you will laugh about this to your grandchildren. But for now...kudos for getting through with grace and aplomb. Wonderful that Jeremy and friend were able to help...can't imagine navigating all that without some help along the way.

Becky said...

Yikes! I felt hot reading this post! So sorry. What doesn't kill you, right . . . ?


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