31 December, 2010

Me, Ramsis, Trains, and Egypt

Another trip back to Alexandria after a week of work in Cairo. A metro trip to Ramsis station. Another sad look on my face watching the marvelous steel ceiling of the station being shadowed by an ugly steel structure that destroyed the beauty of the irreplaceable old structure. Huge columns of welded steel boxes that will apparently be covered later in a completely out of context marble cladding.
An urge inside me to take some photos of what is spared from the ongoing “renovation”. I got out my camera and started roaming the station looking for good angles and shots, something of a rarity after all the small ugly book booths and other meaningless plastic cubes scattered around the station. People bearing the usual sad Egyptian face, the smell and roar of the diesel engines pulling the renovated yet still old carriages. I’m suddenly stopped while taking some photos of workers trapped in a huge cage of scaffolds creating an interesting texture of horizontal and vertical lines.
An “undercover” nformer in civilian clothes asking me for my I’d and giving me this look as if I made a huge crime. I was thinking not another place in Egypt where you need a permit to take some pictures, an addition to a growing list to the list of such places which now seems to be almost everywhere. I’m dragged from one officer to a higher ranking one until I found my name being logged in the station’s police outpost’s log book for taking some freakin pictures! Or “elteqat magmoo3a men el sowar bedoon tasree7″ as the undercover agent kept saying. I was surprised by the amount of informers all over the station wearing civilian clothes. I signed in the log and went to platform 3 to get on the 1919 9:00pm train to Alexandria which was now due in 10 minutes.
As soon as I get in my seat happy by the fact that my chair was next to the window. A place that I prefer over the isle chair cause I can rest my leg on the little area between the chair in front of me and the wall. A woman starts arguing with her voices getting louder with every word. I assume my usual state in the train, headphones in my ears, book at hand, completely oblivious to what’s going around me. It’s been a while since I decided that I don’t have to listen to the dumb arguments going on around me.
The woman’s voice was still getting louder hitting a very high pitch at points to the point that I stopped doing what I was doing, pulled off the headphones and waited for this crab to finish and choosing not to look at her like all the passengers in the car are doing now and wearing a disgusted face looking out of the window watching the train now moving out of the station.
All the conductors now gathered in the isle with their supervisor calmly watching the situation and standing in the little space in front of the chair next to me.
The woman kept blaming the guy who booked her the tickets for booking her on the 9:00am train instead of the 9:00pm trying to throw the ball on one of the train’s conductors to find her a solution and sticking to her chair not permitting the guy who’s supposed to sit in her place, and who’s interestingly calm throughout the fight. The lady and her daughter finally decide to move to another carriage where they found her empty seats after making the child sitting with his mom across the isle from where I’m sitting start crying and making me wish they charge her double the fare for the seats she got.
As soon as I thought the fuss was over, music starts coming from somewhere to the front of me. I raise my head and see that two laptops are on on the other side of the isle. I decided that the music was coming from the laptop two rows to the front and stood up and politely called the guy and running the conversation in my head to let him either stop the music or put some headphones on and not start yet another fight, a completely normal consequence of asking anybody in Egypt to respect your personal space. I was surprised by the woman in front of me and telling me that it’s actually coming from her phone and quickly turns it off. Not five minutes later I start hearing an old tune by Amr Diab whom I have nothing against coming out of some other asshole’s cell phone in the back. I concentrate to figure out where the music is coming from and to my surprise I found that it was coming from the seat right behind me! The dude must’ve heard me asking the woman to the front to turn the music off and started to think that he’s only doing this to bother me, still didn’t prevent me from asking him to turn off his music too.
Rested my head on the seat and started paying attention finally to the book at hand. 10 or so pages later, the sounds of a football match starts coming from the previously wrongly accused laptop dude in the front watching a replay of the Ahly and Zamalek match which just ended an hour or so ago. I decide that this’s too many people for me to solely handle and ask the conductor to ask the guy to turn his speakers off, the man says that he can’t ask a passenger to turn his speakers down and if it’s bothering me I should ask him myself! Getting himself out of the trouble of dealing with another snappy passenger after the woman’s incident in the beginning.
Furious, I immediately step up to the laptop dude, spending a lot of effort trying to prevent myself from punching him in the face and managing to speak as calmly as possible, speakers off, round three won.
Back on my seat again, I start thinking that Egypt needs a solution, incidentally the title to the Fahmy Howaydi book I’m reading.
I put the book down, knowing that there’s no solution, and fall asleep.

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