Let me preface this by saying communication in Qatar is most often a local version of pidgin English (e.g. ''I see truck there. Go fast. Vroom, vroom. Hit that car. Go boom. Truck broken but man ok.''), peppered with a series of never-ending hand signals and curious body gestures.
In fact, it appears to be a necessary evil for all expats to gesticulate shamelessly in the hopes of being understood. Even in my most basic Doha circle of friends from England, Scotland, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Ukraine, Netherlands, Syria, we are constantly pulling muscles trying to visually depict what we're trying to say.
When we lose this humiliating visual contact and mode of transmission, we often lose any hope of getting our message across. We try, but the subtleties of the English language, strange native expressions (e.g. ''fill your boots'', ''toss my cookies'', etc.), and variations on pronunciation manage to discombobulate even the most attentive of listeners.
I mean no disrespect by highlighting these communication challenges. They go both ways, and I have to stop once in a while and remind myself that a Bangladeshi cab driver isn't likely to understand expressions like ''hang a left'' or ''step on it''. I've learned to simplify things a bit here in the Middle East, opting for ''turn left here'' and ''can you please go a little bit faster''.
Most days I find it incredibly funny.
But some days I just throw my hands up in despair ...
It started off this morning with a simple phone call. I'd finally decided I was going to fully embrace my hair's natural inclinations and was ringing salons around the city to see if any had experience dying hair grey.
Dring, dring ...
Lady with an Asian accent on the other end of the line: ''Hello, this is the Lovely Lady Saloon. How can I help you Mamsir?''
Me: ''Uhm, it's 'Mam', or Gypsy.''
Lady: ''Yes, Mamsir, what can I do for you?''
Me: ''Can you apply grey colour?''
Lady: ''Mamsir, you are already wearing a collar?''
Me: ''No, no collar, well other than that one crazy night back in ... wait, what does this have to do with my hair?''
Lady: ''Mamsir, if you are wearing a collar the collaring process is maybe longer to change to a new collar, so I'm asking you if you are wearing a collar.''
Me: ''Ahhhhh, COLOUR! Yes. It's dyed right now.''
Lady: ''Ohhhhh, Madame! I'm sorry for your loss.''
Me: ''Pardon me?''
Lady: ''Someone died Madame?''
Me: ''Nobody died. My HAIR is DYED. It is COLLARED blonde.''
Lady: ''Ok, Madame. What collar you like?''
Lady: ''Ok, Madame. But what collar you LIKE?''
Me: ''GREY. My hair is blonde, but I want to collar it grey so the roots won't show.''
Lady: ''This will make you look old Madame.''
Me: ''Thank you. Do you have anyone available to make me look old on Tuesday at 6 pm?''
Lady: ''Let me check Madame. Ahhhhh, nooooo, I'm sorry, we have no sluts available on Tuesday evening.''
Me: ''Pardon me?''
Lady: ''No sluts available on Tuesday Madame. The first evening slut we have available is next Wednesday. I will book for you?''
Me: ''I don't want a slut, I want an APPOINTMENT to get my HAIR done!''
Lady: ''Yes Madame, I have one time slut left next Wednesday.''
Me: ''Oh, time SLOT. Yes, ok, I'll take it.''
Lady: ''Ok, and we have a new promotion also this week. If you like I can book you one slut also for our new spa package. 30 minutes massage and a cut and collar for 600 riyals, Mam.
Me: ''No, thanks, I'll skip on the massage slut.''
Lady: ''OK. Just to confirm Mamsir, I booked the slut for your collar next Wednesday at 7 pm. It will be 400 riyals.''
Some days it feels like I'm getting older by the minute ...