Since moving to Sand Land, I've learned the hard way that sarcasm and facetious remarks will get you no where. Actually, that's not correct. Sarcasm, sass and snark will get you somewhere - they'll land you in all kinds of misunderstandings and will lead most of Sand Land's residents to believe that you are a danger to yourself and/or the public at large. I'm a snarky smart-ass by nature, so depriving myself of these forms of artistic expression is pretty much equivalent to Monet chucking out his water colors.
But the sarcasm's got to go. At first, the misunderstandings seemed harmless enough. For example, my grandmotherly administrative assistant asked to speak to me in private one day.
"I'm concerned that you're not adjusting well to this place," she whispered.
"Oh, really? Why is that?" I asked, bracing myself for some constructive criticism.
"Well, I just want you to know that nothing, nothing should ever make you want to stab your eyes out with a pen," she explained, referring to a remark I'd made when she showed me the proposed rent increase for one of our employee's accommodation.
I looked at her in stunned silence, trying not to laugh.
"Even if for some reason, you would get some small, small satisfaction from stabbing your eyes - don't you think you'd regret it later?"
I attempted to explain that it was a figure of speech, not something to be taken literally. But I'm pretty sure she left the room convinced I wasn't playing with a full deck...and perhaps she's right.
While these little "lost in translation" moments might be par for the course in Sand Land, I did not expect to pick up a stalker as a result of my sarcastic quips. Nor did I anticipate explaining to my boss that I'm not a pimp.
You see, our office has a small clinic staffed with a GP doctor. A few of the companies near us send their employees for minor ailments and to get sick leave. Sand Land's sick leave policies are fairly strict. Unlike the U.S., you're not allotted a certain number of sick days per year to use as you see fit. If you fall sick here, you've got to go to the doctor and get a permission slip which states that you're to be excused from work for a certain number of days.
At the beginning of the month, this guy from a neighboring company burst into my office in a rage. He'd sprained his wrist and our doctor had given him sick leave for three days. But this was no good, he wanted 10 days of sick leave. The following week, he was supposed to report for duty to a camp in the interior. I failed to understand why this was a problem, so he enlightened me:
"Look," he said, scowling at me as if I was dense. "Eid holidays will fall the week after next and if I get 10 days sick leave, then I can have three weeks of vacation here and not go to the interior."
"Our doctor can't give you 10 days of sick leave if you don't truly need them. Your company may get angry if we're giving people unnecessary sick leave."
"Well, what am I to do then?" he demanded as he picked up one of my business cards.
"Um, go back to work like you're supposed to - or see the doctor again if your wrist is still bothering you after three days?"
He rolled his eyes and stood up without saying another word. When he was halfway to the door, he spun around, a saccharine sweet smile plastered across his face. "Would you like to uhhh....you know, go have coffee with me tonight?"
"I'm sorry, but no." I said as he sat back down.
"Why not?" his face clouding.
"Because I'm married."
"Oh," he chuckled. "That's no problem - wait, do you have kids?"
"Ok, then. So no problem."
"I think it would be a problem for my husband," I said, starting to sound annoyed.
He clicked his tongue and ran a hand through his hair. Then he looked me in the eye and leveled with me: "I have been looking and looking for some British lady or Russian lady to...you know, have coffee with."
"Well, I'm not going to solve your problem because I'm neither British nor Russian."
"You know what I mean. I'm looking for a white lady. Can you help me?"
"You want me to help you find some white lady to go out with?" I asked, starting to laugh.
"And any white lady do?" I asked snidely.
"Oh. Well then, I'm totally on the case. One white lady coming up," I said, my voice dripping with a mix of sarcasm and contempt. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to work."
He gave me a big smile and shuffled out of my office.
"Jackass," I muttered under my breath after he left.
I didn't give the exchange anymore thought...till I started receiving a steady stream of text messages from my buddy asking for a status update on the white lady he'd ordered from me. I did the passive aggressive thing and ignored them. But then he started calling 6 - 7 times a day. Thankfully, I'd labeled him as "Creepy Bastard" in my mobile and ignored those, too.
After a couple days, there was silence. But then one day, as I was heading out to a meeting with the company's founder, Creepy Bastard accosted me in the parking lot. What progress had I made in finding him a white lady? When could he expect to get coffee with her? Had I found many ladies for him or only one?
I stared at my bewildered, socially conservative boss and wished I could sink through the pavement and die. So there you have it, an episode of epic fuckwittery from yours truly. I'd seen the writing on the wall. I knew that snide, sarcastic remarks are usually taken at literal, face value over here. But did I do the smart thing and mend my ways? Nope!