Sunday, April 5, 2009

Part 2: The Syrian Mechanics

Given the nonchalant advice from several mechanics that we could drive our car home despite the problems, we hopped back into our hobbling vehicle and headed the 5 remaining kilometers to the border post. We just wanted to get out of the UAE and into Oman because once “home” all our problems got easier. Nevertheless, after a few lights, it was even worse. Silly Iranian man who gave us the taunting promise that all our problems would be over after he changed the oil. Should have seen that one coming.

We pulled off to the side of the road and decided to sit and collect ourselves for a few minutes. It must have been around 6 at this point. Feeling rather dejected and unsure about what to do, already exhausted, a man drove by in a pick-up and asked about the problem. He was one of those rare angel characters in life that show up at just the right time and seem to have nothing better to do than to help you. He looked at the car, decided that the Al-Ain mechanics were donkeys, and called his Syrian boys to come on over. Note: it’s the West’s equivalent of Sunday evening at this point. This is not a time when you would expect seemingly the entire Syrian population of Al-Ain to take a sudden interest in you.

Soon two dudes show up, rocking out in their pimped Mercedes to Fifty-Cent and J Lo. They are punks, but look like mechanics should. Greasy, relaxed, smart. They were the first people to actually diagnose the problem instead of just fiddle around. Apparently, the seal to one of the pistons is messed up and the car is consequently leaking engine oil into the pressure chamber and pushing it out the exhaust pipe, where it is burning. He can’t fix it now, but there is some temporary miracle oil leak stopper fluid that he suggests. One Syrian suspiciously stays by our deserted car while George and I slide onto the other’s black leather seats. George tries hard to have a conversation with the guy, but he consistently gives bizarre responses, like that he doesn’t know how long he’s been in the UAE or where he is from. He also confirms for us that all Indian, Bengalis, and everyone else are donkeys. Good to know. He does give us a tour of his American rap collection though. And at every stop light, he hits the breaks in beat with the music. He was rocking out. Got to say though, his music collection was la crème of American tunes.

An hour later, we are back at the car (the first Syrian dude is still benignly leaning on it). We pay them for the oil, and off we go. There is indeed a lot less smoke…for about 1 kilometer. Ah, well. We hope that because it is dark out now, the customs officers will let us through without much hassle.

We drove for another hour just trying to find the border, somehow getting stuck in the construction zone traffic in the town center over and over again. The beeping from other cars was getting really obnoxious. “You have big problem!!” …Yes, we know, that’s why we are going 25 km per hour with our hazard lights on. Although very concerned about our car, the Emirates evidently don’t like visitors leaving Al-Ain. With no signs, the border we finally got to turned out to be for Gulf nationals only, so we puffed along to find the next one. I toughened up and consoled myself that the worst was over. Get through this next border and home free.

Part 3 coming soon.


Dispatches from the Middle East said...

I'm totally enjoying your account of this crazy misadventure --- the suspense is overwhelming, though: bring on Part 3!

Hope you've recovered and that life's all good now... :-)

Clare said...

Thanks, friend! All is well-ish now!