Being Among Transients

 

            I’m not sure if its hormones, heritage, or environment, but I’m angry! 
            I’m angry at the all the rude, arrogant, indifferent people who have no manners. What has happened to manners anyway? I’m not talking about pinky up, monogrammed stationary, and white glove manners. Nor hospital corners while making a bed, or standing up if a woman leaves the table, or walks into a room.
            I’m talking about calling (instead of emailing or texting) that you can’t make it.
            I’m talking about coming when you say you are going to be somewhere.
            I’m talking about following through on commitments.
            Perhaps it’s not lack of manners that causes my otherwise enjoyable friends to behave this way. Maybe it’s lack of commitment.
            As I careen through the city with a guest, driving on our errands, my mobile is constantly buzzing: change of plans, someone is sick. Update: someone got done early and will dropping in. Question: how do I get to such and such?
            “Things really change quickly around here,” my guest says, eyeing the string of incomplete buildings along the corniche.
In a transient community like Qatar, there is no real context for commitment;
so maybe it isn’t surprising when people don’t show up, even after they led you to
expect them.
After all, people sign job contracts they never finish, drive leased cars, and live
in houses they can’t buy. The entire nature of life ex-pat life is predicated on a tenuous proposition: you are part here but at the same time, part on the way to somewhere. You can’t put down roots because you already pulled them up somewhere else.
So much time is spent thinking about what you left, or what is up ahead, that there is nothing left for what is now. Perhaps because I’ve lived in several other cities of questionable nighttime entertainment, I recognize these signs of internal turmoil.
            “There’s nothing to do here.”
            Or, “this isn’t a real city.”
            Those saying this draw comfort from the fact they have had more worldly and pleasurable experiences elsewhere, ignoring the adage that could give some perspective: life is what you make it, no matter where you are.
As Heath Ledger as recently evinced, there are lonely people everywhere, even in one of the world’s most fabled places: New York City.
People come here to make money.
This is a holding cell while they garner financial resources for their future dreams.
And while they are here – they survive. Not thrive. Survive, as in subsist, make do, endure.
There are two cities in this country – like Dickens said – two sets of stories. Those who are here and those who are stopping in on their way somewhere.
It’s hard to discover any place in between; nearly impossible to construct a meaningful life within this truncated environment where two populations circulate around each other but never come together. Both talk about the other with suspicious envy.
“They don’t know how to work,” one group believes.
“They make us strangers in our own country,” the other group retorts.
More disturbing still there is a third circle, on the perimeter of these two experiences, isolated by class and labor issues, made into a modernized class of indentured servants. They are everywhere in their coveralls, riding on school buses, sitting on the sidewalk, sleeping in any patch of shade: always watching, watching, watching the rest of us as we struggle to make meaning while they scrimp to send money home to their families.
Making meaning for me has always meant people. My father says this has been my life’s weakness: my need for friends makes me emotionally needy.
“Friends, and friends, and friends, and friends,” he would say to me as a teenager, begging to be allowed to stay out for a football game, or movie, or sleep over.
“What benefit do you get from these people?”
Perhaps he is right.  And maybe this is finally the city where I will be forced to learn how to make do without and turn inward to my own resources. The prospect of this leaves me feeling as desolate as the desert landscape which surrounds me.  
         

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