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Lost at sea

“Hail in Cairo! What fun,” I remember thinking cheerfully as the tiny pellets bounced off the taxi’s windshield. Looking out the window though, it seemed few people shared my sentiment, instead interpreting this rare phenomenon as a potential sign of the apocalypse. Men and women alike ran around with plastic bags stretched over their heads, leaping over puddles and shrieking for no clear reason; groups of children huddled in doorways and bus-stops, pointing at the rumbling sky in awe. Every few feet someone would run up to my taxi, howling incoherently through the glass in a desperate attempt to get out of the storm. 

A few minutes later though, my enthusiasm had been effectively washed away. Having gotten out of the taxi in the general vicinity of my destination, I was now helplessly lost. By this point, the rain was at its heaviest and had been going on long enough to ensure that the streets were deserted. In an uncharacteristic stroke of foresight, I had bought with me an umbrella from home, which I then characteristically forgot in the taxi. Within seconds, my toes were shivering in their distgustingly wet socks. Childhood stories I had heard about fatal electrocutions caused by faulty lamppost wiring exposed in the rain kept me as far away from the sidewalks as possible. Instead, I was forced to wade through the shin-deep rivers running through the streets.

A few hours later, done with the excruciatingly dull press conference I was assigned to cover, I was back on the streets looking for a cab to take me back home, all the way across Cairo. It wasn’t raining anymore, so I didn’t expect finding a cab would be the hellish experience it turned out to be. The lampposts were still wet, which meant I was forced to stay off of the sidewalks. Twenty minutes later and not a single taxi had come my way. Time dragged on. My mood was quickly turning monstrous, my head filling with increasingly violent thoughts.

The first two available taxis that came down my street did not even slow down. They just shook their heads at me and drove on. The third one did slow down only to promptly speed away upon hearing the first syllable of my destination.

It was at this point that I noticed the few people beside me on the street were also waiting for an available cab. In other words, competition. Panicking, lest one of them get home before me, I began to strategize.

I got into the fourth cab without telling him my destination first, the way they do in foreign movies. The driver asked me to get out. I calmly told him that according to the law, he had to take me where I wanted to go. I added that if he had a problem, he could drive us to the nearest police station where the matter would surely take hours to settle. The driver said he was going home and that I could get out here or go home with him. I asked him where he lived and if it was close to Nasr City. He assured me it wasn’t.

I tried the same trick with the fifth cab but the driver wasn’t going to fall for it—he didn’t even stop the car. Jogging beside him, holding on to the swinging passenger-side door, I pleaded with him to no avail and when he picked up speed, forcing me to let go of the door, I continued to chase his car, yelling a list of the vilest expletives known to man. I was hoping he would screech to a halt and step out for a confrontation. I wanted blood. I wanted to steal his car, drive it home, and torch it. Unfortunately, he just kept driving. Seething, I watched his obscene hand gesture disappear around the corner.

I needed a cigarette. Of course, at this point my luck was firmly set in a direction that ensured my pack was empty. Despite it being a Thursday night, kiosks were closed everywhere I looked, as were most stores. The gas-station market was closed as well.

“Why is this closed?” I screamed at one of the attendants while violently rattling the locked door. “Didn’t you see what the weather was like,” the bewildered attendant asked me. “Who would go out to buy anything in this weather?”

“Me!” I screamed savagely. “Me! I’m right here!”

Later, I came across a KFC and briefly considered wandering in and asking someone for a cigarette but the mere thought depressed me, and instead I trudged on, cold, wet, tired, and wondering “why do we live in a country where people are scared of rain?”

I asked the same question to a cab driver who finally agreed to take me home. “It’s rain,” he said simply. “Cars rust in the rain.”

“What do you mean cars rust in the rain?” I barked. “You wash your car, don’t you?”

The old man nodded slowly. “Yes, but it’s different, the rain. It gets in the engine.”

“What are you talking about?” I was losing control. “Look at all this traffic! The streets are empty but there’s still traffic! Tell me why!” I demanded.

“Rain,” the driver said simply. 

“But it’s not even raining anymore! Do you know it took me almost two hours to find a cab?”

The driver gave me a surprised look. “Why?”

“Because of the rain,” I said, sarcastically.

He considered this response, and nodded. “Yeah,” he said to me. “Rain will do that.”

Giving up, I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and waited for the summer.

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