Friday, June 19, 2009

Scary start, great ending

"You are the gold car, yes? Gold car with dent in bumper," said the man next to me with a slight, gee-isn't-it-funny smile. 

That's when I realized he had been following me for the last hour and a half. He had followed me into Carefour, a wal-mart style grocery store here in Doha packed with expats and locals. Somehow, he had trailed me around the store for the 90 minutes that I meandered, losing myself in the many foreign labels. I was oblivious. Sure, it was odd that he stood in front of the lettuce for three minutes, not moving, just -standing-, until I shrugged at him and walked past. It was also a bit peculiar that he took his spot behind me in line, wielding only a bag of grapes to my cart full.

"I help you carry out," he said. Roughly 50, with a heavy accent and a half-grin, he didn't seem unusual. As I've mentioned before, the men here stare. They stare a lot. I've gotten used to it/started to ignore it/am still struggling but hey, that's life.

"No, I'm fine," was my response. He argued, saying yes, yes, let me help you carry out. I shook my head, quickly collected my bags and hurried out of Carefour and into the mall proper. He caught up with me two minutes later. I heard his footsteps first, then he was grabbing my bag.

"I help you carry out." 

I stopped for a moment, turning to face him and firmly shaking my head. "No, I -am- fine." I grabbed at my sack. He wouldn't give it bag. 

"I help you, it's heavy. I help." 


We reached the escalator, descending towards the garage. He asked where I was from. I said America. The conversation died and then he mentioned my bumper. My bumper, dented from a hit-and-run that happened a couple nights ago while Kath and I were sleeping. 

That's when I started to freak out. In a moment of utter surprise, I turned to him. "How did you -know- that?" I demanded. He smiled and I pulled out my phone, calling Bryce, editor-in-chief and my unknowing hero.

Now Crazy and I were in the garage together, alone, surrounded by cars. I couldn't figure out where I parked. Crazy knew. He helped me. I talked to Bryce the whole time, chatting about eggplants, grocery stores, chatting as though this would-be-stalker hadn't just followed me a lot and then some more. The groceries were in my trunk, Crazy was waiting. I turned to him.

"Maybe we..." He began.

"No. I'm seeing someone. I'm on the phone with him now." Before he could answer, I was inside my car, doors locked, shaking. 

Crazy followed me home. He followed me back to my apartment, where Bryce told me to pull up front, walk straight in and tell the guards. I did. Crazy left, after having failed to find a parking spot (and perhaps seeing me talking with someone). Bryce offered to come over, take pictures, kick some serious tush. No, no, I just wanted to go upstairs and return to normal.

So I guess moral of the story is, not everything is rosy in Doha. Sure, that could have happened anywhere. But it didn't. It happened here, where I'm a stranger in a strange land... where I don't know what to do, or how to react, or if I somehow encouraged that sort of behavior. I suppose it's a good reminder to be a little cautious, and not go walking by myself at strange hours, and not go swimming by moonlight. ... or something like that.

Kath and I really did have an amazing rest of the day. We attended a business brunch (Great food! Lots of talk!) then snuck off to the Sheraton to lounge, read, lounge and read. After much swimming, lounging and reading, I'm back home eating my body weight in melons (purchased this morning, oh yay!). We work tomorrow, so bed will be coming soon.

I really do love it here, good, bad 'n ugly. I love my job. I love the people I'm around. And yes, I still love grocery stores. 

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