Myth of the Good Samaritan

Cairo, Egypt

When I came home from our lovely potluck last night, I found all my roommates, the neighbor and his friend standing on the landing between our two apartments.  The neighboring apartment had been robbed the week before, and the locks on the door replaced.  When our neighbor came home last night, he was unable to open the door.  By the time I got home, he had already broken the window in his front door in an attempt to get it open from the inside, but to no avail.  We stood around discussing the idea for a few minutes.  “I could call the landlord,” says the neighbor, “but I don’t speak Arabic.”
“Maryah speaks Arabic!” volunteered one of my roommates.
“I’ll speak to him,” I volunteered myself. It was a quick conversation, and it didn’t take long for the landlord to arrive.

In the midst of his attempts to open the apartment, the landlord pulled me aside and, in rapidfire Arabic, he insisted that he had no idea who this guy was who claimed to live in the apartment, he’d never seen him nor a copy of his passport before, he had no idea if he actually lived there. Also, where were his roommates? They had said they were leaving at the end of the month, and they left last week? That’s unacceptable! He said all this as if it were my responsibility, and when I protested that it was not my apartment, he shrugged it off. Didn’t I understand this was unacceptable?

Ultimately, the landlord was also unable to open the apartment, and he insisted that no locksmith could be found before 10am the next morning, at which time everyone but me was going to be at work or in class. I agreed to take the key to the neighboring apartment and meet the locksmith the next day. After the landlord left, we offered the guy next door a spot on our couch for the night.

The next day, the landlord and the locksmith showed up at the agreed to time, got the door open and replaced the locks again.  Then the landlord beckoned me into the other apartment, ostensibly to check out the Internet which we share with the other apartment. “Look at this!” he exclaimed. “This place hasn’t been cleaned in months! And they haven’t paid their electricity bills for several months. And this is broken, and that’s broken. And did they have a cat in here? Look at the mess they’ve made!” I kept reminding him that this wasn’t my apartment, but he wasn’t listening.  Finally, I threw up my own hands and exclaimed, “I don’t want to be part of this! My only part in this was as translator. I don’t want to know the details, I don’t want to hear the problems, I just want my Internet back and to be finished with the whole affair!” I think he finally got the point.

Morals of the Story
First: Don’t shoot the translator! I was just trying to be a good Samaritan, but as they say, no good deed goes unpunished!
Second: Honor your responsibilities! If you are old enough to pack up your life and take a job in a foreign country all by yourself, then you are old enough to bear responsibility for your life there. Pay your electric bills, make sure your landlord knows who’s living in his apartment, don’t break his furniture, clean occasionally, maintain the Internet connection for which your neighbors are paying half your bill…. If not out of respect for your landlord and your host community, then at least have a little self-respect!

This is my rant of the week. I now return you to your regular programming….

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