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Friday, June 27, 2008

The Businessmen Bullman

As my weary face stared back at me through the bathroom mirror I vowed not to make the strenuous round trip from Tartous to Damascus on a single day again. "I'm too old for this shit", I confided to my reflection a few years back.
The 250 km distance is divided in two major components and contains what is probably the most boring stretch of asphalt in the world. I have rarely in my travels encountered anything as depressing as the 150 km long reel of stark landscape between Homs and Damascus. It's of course in sharp contrast with the green heaving and cinematically picturesque Tartous–Homs segment. Once I cross Homs on my way back, my breathing returns to normal and my grip on the steering wheel relaxes by its own volition. I am closer to home.
A couple of times per year I break my own rule and I often end up regretting my sedition. As the pain shoots out omni-directionally from my stiff lower back I console myself that being stupid is part of the learning process. Be that as it may, I had to be in Damascus from 10:00AM to 5:00PM on a Wednesday. I also had to be in Tartous early the next morning. I had no choice but to exempt myself yet again. On top, I felt adventurous enough to perhaps commit another mistake. “Why not take the bus”, I thought, “Everybody does it, so why not me”.
It’s been a long time since I traveled in a Bullman in Syria. For those unaware, a bullman refers to a Pullman or a large bus. Arabs in general, including the majority of Syrians insist that there is no distinction between the letters B & P. They always substitute them with each other although they put a lot of effort into finally releasing the wrong P. As thus, a beautiful girl with a perfect body wearing a bikini ends up as a peautiful girl with a berfect pody wearing a Pikini instead. “Excuse me sir, can I bark near the bolice station”, asked the suave Damascene student to the American cop. “This is a free country”, Officer Jim answered, “you can bark anywhere you want.”
I have heard stories about the Businessmen Bus (باص رجال الأعمال), “It’s so comfortable you don’t feel it’s moving at all,” so I’ve been told. Instead of the usual 45 passenger arrangement, the businessmen bus of Kadmous Tours is equipped with 32 wide leather seats. It leaves Tartous at 6:30 in the morning and takes a little bit over 3 hours to reach Damascus. Along the way, it makes a stupid stop in what is called an Istiraha, a café/restaurant/rest area combination. These istirahas are almost always obscenely decorated and excessively grimy. The only advantage of stopping is probably the chance to take a bee, meaning a pee of course. A nasty ammonia smell permeates the dank air surrounding the restrooms corner and convinces me to hold it till I reach my destination. It would make for a very good impression to rush into the bathroom before I even exchange the necessary niceties with my hosts. With all these details vying for my attention I climbed the few steps into the coach and headed hesitantly toward my assigned seat.
In all honesty the bus was posh and clean from the inside. The leather seat was very comfortable and accommodating. I sat by the aisle and hoped that the next seat remains unoccupied. I had my laptop, I had an unread book, I had earphones to connect to my mobile phone and listen to my favorite music just as precautionary measures against a worst case scenario. The seats were quickly being taken and with each approaching unwashed mustached face I crossed my fingers and controlled my breathing so as to avoid an imminent anxiety attack.


-“I should’ve reserved both seats for crying out loud. There’s still time to change my mind and go home and take my car instead. I must …
-“Excuse me, can you let me in please”.
I looked up and my glance turned into a long stare at the most beautiful green eyes I have ever seen in my life. Green and shimmering like the leaves of an olive tree after the passage of a rainstorm. Tranquil, translucent and peppered by minute hints of hazel, her eyes meant to dint forever the inner walls of the most private chambers of the mind and soul. Hypnotized, I gave her way and was immediately awarded with an olfactory attack of a rainbow of sweet and exotic fragrances. She had just stepped out of a scented bath and her, still damp, curly hair brushed against my left ear as she eased her way into the seat.
Good morning”, she smiled.
Ye2berni your morning”, I silently replied.
As soon as the driver took the final exit out of Tartous and released the reins of his machine I turned and said, loud enough for her to hear this time, “ I have a laptop, a novel and enough music to occupy me for the next 3 hours if you so choose. But I rather spend it talking with you and enjoying your company. It’s your call.”
- “My name is Lama and there’s nothing I'd like more than a nice and entertaining conversation judging from the way you introduced yourself,” she quickly replied with a gorgeous smile on her face.
Her pearly smile and jade eyes won me over in a minute. There’s no point in hiding anything. “I’m abufares. I’m married. I have 3 kids although I don’t wear a ring,” I blurted out as I beamed at my own reflection swimming effortlessly in the calm pools of her eyes.
We talked for the next 4 hours, mostly about her. She is a civil engineer in a public sector company on her way to the ministry in Damascus. My quick calculations betrayed her age at around 28. I learned about her childhood, her college years, her work and her ambitions. I became aware of her tastes in reading and music, her personal assessment and outlook on life. We talked economy, politics, sociology and religion. She let me through a small window into her life and asked for my advice. We had coffee together in the Istiraha and neither of us showed any inclination to use the bathroom. I told her stories from here and there and opened up honestly to her gentle probing inquiries. When we ultimately reached Damascus she was already aware of my aversion to busses and my angst toward taxis. A car from the ministry was sent to pick her up and she would take me wherever I need to go. But eventually, and like all the good things in life, our journey through time and space was coming to an end.
-“You too have beautiful green eyes”, she said, “I’ve never enjoyed a bus ride as much as I’ve enjoyed this one.”
-“Are you by any chance returning to Tartous on the 18:30 bus later on today?”, I pleaded.
No, she was staying overnight at her aunt’s house. But we will see each other again, someday soon, she hoped.
I prayed!
Around 5:30 PM, I was walking the streets near the Omaya Hotel. I had a brief lunch earlier during the meeting and was looking forward a chocolate ice-cream at Apollo. I had a little time on my hand to kill before the dreadful ride in a taxi to Harasta then the return to Tartous on a regular (not businessmen) bullman.
As I glanced sideways before crossing the street I heard my name being called from a car right in front of me. A friend of mine, a sea master of a large tanker had just returned by plane from Amsterdam. His wife had waited for him at the airport earlier and they were leaving to Tartous now. I tried to convince them that I do not mind the bus ride but they would not hear of it. As the car sped up leaving the city behind, my friend really wanted to know how my bus trip to Damascus was.
-“It was a trip I’ll never forget”, I mused loudly with a big smile on my face.
-“I bet it was,” the captain said, “I bet it was.”

53 comments:

Mariyah said...

Perhaps you, too, have a benovolent Jinni guiding you!! Enjoyable story, Abu Fares!! ;-)

DUBAI JAZZ said...

I gathered from your comment on my last post that it'd be the inspiration to your new post?

It's amazing how a pair of beautiful eyes could brush aside all man-induced inspiration!

Don't mind me grunting Abu Fares, I enjoyed your refereshing travel account thoroughly.... you are the man!

الله يلعن الأواني المستطرقة و ساعتها!
LOL!

Lujayn said...

I have yet to experience such an enjoyable trip on a bullman, ya Abu Fares. You know all those unwashed mustaches that walked past you? They end up sitting next to me. I hate those bus rides, but I'm glad to hear yours turned into a very stimulating (visually and intellectually) encounter. So are you going to ditch the car now and try your luck on the business bullman from now on?

Anonymous said...

i rememberd my teenage, it dosen´t matter how long the jerny was sinse I am with nice company,

gone fishing

Abu Kareem said...

Abu Fares,

You bissed me off with your bost! Why can't I have such good luck in the bullman of the air (the airblane)!!! Instead of fearing unwashed mustachued men, I fear the 300 pound human blimp sitting next to me.

abufares said...

@Mariyah
May be your Jinni and mine should meet. Why don't we introduce them to each other some day?!

abufares said...

@DJ
I got your email while enjoying "Green Eyes" next to me. I laughed when I read it and she asked me why. You inevitably became part of the conversation.
I'm going to pause your question to the more than a Dozen readers of this blog:
What do we call IN ENGLISH the concept or principle by which the atmospheric pressure on 2 open connected containers cause the liquid to be at the same level. In Arabic it's called الأواني المستطرقة
Inquisitive DJ wants to know. Apparently, It's a matter of life and death. That's what I told Lama anyway.

abufares said...

@Lujayn
I very much doubt that I'll push my luck any further. May be once every year or so and out of necessity I'll give the Bullman a try but that's it.
If you remember an old post of mine: "The Charms of the Passing Woman", in a way, it was one of those chance endearing encounters that are meant to be always remembered with a big smile from the heart.

abufares said...

@lê
The irony is:
"Only if I knew then what I know now."

abufares said...

@Abu Kareem
It's amazing how we act and react when confined in close quarters with a horde of humans.
Makes you wonder after all about the validity of the judicial system (crime and punishment), social equity and human rights.

KJ said...

Abu Fares, I envy how you are able to charm women! You are to pass to me some of your wisdom in this field! (alternatively, I can perhaps hang around women more often!)

DJ, I believe it is Pascal's Principle, which states that a pressure throughout a closed system is constant. No? Not sure.. although knowing you I am definite you're trying to get the political metaphor out of it!

KJ said...

Also called liquid equilibrium and u-shape vessel law (both applications of Bascal's Brincible)

abufares said...

@KJ
See my reply to lê above. My palms used to sweat at the thought of making a pass at a woman. Now that I'm over it, it's too late alas.
If the concept is called Bascal's Brincible where in the hell did they get Al- Awani Al MustarraKa from???

Kiss Ikht elli Tarakon :)

abufares said...

BTW KJ
I don't think it's the same as Pascal's Principle because that one had something to do with enclosed containers if I'm not mistaken.
Mustatraka is the key word here. We have to know what the hell it means in English.
My initial reply to DJ was: Capillary Action. And, I typed my reply email on my mobile phone and dispatch it immediately just to show him how much I care. But, NO he wasn't satisfied, it's not Capillary Action, he wrote back. Capillary Action is الأواني الشعرية he further elaborated.
So what is it really???

MomTo5 said...

nice post...cant help laughing...even my kids starts to say B instead of P !!!!!

abufares said...

@momto5
LOL
you have to be careful with your kids' B's esbecially since you live in or near a Balestinian Camb and all the beoble bronounce the letter B like the letter B :-)

Anonymous said...

You are and will always bea "Flirt" ! ; )

w. b. yeats

KJ said...

أقول ما سمعتم واستغفر الله لي ولكم

abufares said...

@w. b. yeats

you looked and still look so hot and sexy... you would've made any man flirtatious.
we, povresitos, just react ;-)

abufares said...

@KJ
What are you Testaghfer Rabbak about? Don't get me wrong, it's good... but what about?

Anonymous said...

"Pícaro" comes to mind!
w.b. yeats

Anonymous said...

By the by, had a look at your pictures! What beautiful and full of history sites, and the food, and the coast/beach!!! A travesy for all the senses is your site.

w.b. yeats

MomTo5 said...

lol , oki.
do you want an Bebsi?

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Thank you for posing the question to the public Abu Fares. I am sorry for the trouble. It’s a bloody bee (that’s a real B, the second in the alphabet) in my bonnet until I find out about it!

KJ, the U-shape vessel law sounds like the closest thing so far, but I couldn’t find a categorical mention of it in any of the known references (wikipedia… etc..).

Anyway guys I’ll find it and I’ll let you know!

KJ said...

Abu Fares, nothing wallah LOL! I was imitating an Imam who passed on all his wisdom for a given session that's all!

DJ, the reason it isn't on wiki is because it isn't an actual law. It is a concept, an application of Pascal's Principle. Like hydraulics and that stuff. But Syrians (or was it the Egyptians this time) who decided that we need to Arabize everything and came up with that funny sounding phrase.

Ya3ni ma32ool La Noisette is now called Al Bunduqa!

abufares said...

@momto5
I am thinking of making a commercial about the globalization of syria. I want to drink a cold Bebsi and wear a bair of coyboy bants (jeans used to be called coyboy when I was a kid).

@dj
after you halaktna with your Awani Mustatraka you want to do it on your own now? even if you find the correct naming you can't get the credit anymore. from this moment on it's considered a group effort.

@kj
it's important to find out who Tarak those Syrians and/or Egyptians at the Moujama3 Al Lougah Al Arabiah so that they came out with the word Moustatraka. We were kids when they made us memorize this word. Who will make it up for us? whom to blame for the psychological damage? look at what happened to dj. he's loosing sleep over the Istitrak. i can't face it anymore, someone must pay the price. we should Netrok somebody...

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats
Porque tus ojos son tan hermosos sólo ven cosas bellas.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Al hamdulilah, you guys can put your anxious minds to rest. The mystery has been resolved.The bloody Awani Mustatrika turned out to be nothing else other than the charming Communicating Vessels.

Abu Fares, of course I won't claim credits alone. Thank you all for inspiring me to achieve this feat. I'd also like to thank my parnets for putting up with me. A special thanks goes to the guy who serves me green tea in the office. A very special thanks to my friends and colleagues for their unlimited support. A the last but not the least to you, my fans and admirers, for your ultimate supply of morale. I hope you keep your sets of blinkers tied at all times.

Errr.... and very warm thanks goes to Abu Fares for allowing the venue for this scientific quest to broceed!

MadSurg said...

I really envy your luck, Abufares. For the last 7 years (actually 8, I spent 11th grade summer in Damascus) I got NOTHING but the unwashed mustaches when I was lucky...or else a was squeezed by a sweaty-300-pounds...I even stopped traveling early in the morning and chose the late 9p.m. trip so I can get some sleep. I am taking the train nowadays, which has a row of single seats...

I remember once I was taking the bus to Manchester Airport and thought that this might be the one-and-only time I'll get an interesting company...Guess what? I got a sleepy fellow next to me Damascene couple behind me talking there miserable family bussiness in a loud, annoying way. They even happened to be on the same plane I was taking, all the way to Damascus.

Imagine that!

abufares said...

@DJ
Congratulations Indiana Jones or whatever the name of the character in the Da Vinci Code was. You must feel pretty good now.
They should've called it then: Al Awani Al Moutafahima. However, apparently, Moujama3 Al Lougha Al 3arabiah assumed that if the Awani are Moutafahima they will inevitably Itrok each other LOL.
Your acknowledgments are dully noted and much deserved.

abufares said...

@MadSurg
That's what's called beginners' luck and that's why I don't want to push it any further. If, however, Lama tells me beforehand that she's going to be riding the bus to Damascus then that's another story.
BTW, I've heard about a new train service between Tartous and DAM. Please fill us in with all the details, including the gory ones.

abufares said...

A Tasteless Joke TO ALL Arabic Speaking Readers for no reason at all apparently...

كان في صياد يصيد بط. مرت بطة عالية شوي، معطها ضرب صابها بمنقارها بس ما ماتت. وطت ومرت قريب منه وقالت له: إنبططت يا طيطي?

شرح: بما انه الإصابة كانت بمنقارها لم تستطع البطة أن تلفظ جيداً:
إنبسطت يا طيزي؟

I hope the above joke illustrates how intellectually stimulated I've been recently.

Anonymous said...

Abufares , sayad bat, just returned from fishing, I brought with me 4 deek balady,decollated them to our traditionl way ,the first one i´ll do the (Aufares)burghol be homos, the second, I´ll
cook with (laban)traditional Arminian from Aintab, the last 2 ones which are small dike(shalfoon)
will be grilled with ZEIT O TUM,
all of you are invited

DUBAI JAZZ said...

loool Abu Fares, that was one funny duck!
Reminded me of another duck-related joke; allow me to post it here un censored :)

قال في واحد راح يدرس بأميركا و صار يبعتلو لأبو كل شهر قائمة بالمصاريف:

600 دولار سكن
400 دولار قسط جامعة
.................
.................
100 دولار تعريص


قام الأب اتزعج و بعتلو رسالو لابنو فلو إذا بدك تعرص عرص بس لا تكتبلي تعريص, كتوب أي شغلة تانية : صيد بط مثلا...

قام الولد بلش من تاني شهر:

600 دولار سكن
400 دولار قسط جامعة
.................
.................
200 دولار صيد بط


و الشهر اللي بعدو

600 دولار سكن
400 دولار قسط جامعة
.................
.................
300 دولار صيد بط


و اللي بعدو :
..................
.................
400 دولار صيد بط


و اللي بعدو :
..................
.................
500 دولار صيد بط



و بشهر من الشهور كتب الإبن:

600 دولار سكن
400 دولار قسط جامعة
.................
.................
1000 دولار تصليح جفت

Omar said...

sounds like a dream trip to me. I have always dreamt of having a beautiful, intelligent girl sit next to me on a long trip, it still hasn't happened. On the plane ride to Damascus the other day I noticed a few good looking tourists in the line up, but of course I ended up next to the snoring old man, and the mom with the crying baby.

The post was a delight to read as usual, and talk about a conversation starter!

abufares said...

@lê
Sahha Wa Hana
Please let me know if you cook the deek in laban like Shakrieh or differently. If so, write recipe please.

@DJ
Apparently the guy has been using local cartridges (Ma3amel Al Difa3) that explains why he should fix his JEFET :-)

@Omar
بآخر هالعمر زبطت معنا مرة. خايف ما تصيبوني بالعين.

But really, she was gorgeous and she smelled sooo goood ;-)

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Abu Fares, I have one grim task at hand, I need to know what the meaning of Al Awani Al Mustankiha is….الأواني المستنكحة

abufares said...

@DJ
I just checked with the Comparative Literature Departments at the Damascus, Aleppo, Baath and Tishrin Universities.
They unanimously confirmed:

Fornicating Vessels.

Anonymous said...

Gallantry always is a step ahead when wooing a woman's heart : )

HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

w.b. yeats

Anonymous said...

Abufares, a deek balady, or deek hendi, both are good, first you have to cook in pressur pan for about 40 m. and then separate the meat in big pieces.
you have to preper the LABANIE first, if you find sheeps laban it is better, if you dont you have to add some HASHA(RISE PAUDER)mixed in cold water first,

the Arminian (ARMAN)which is the same , instaid of DEEK you can use big pieces of meat,
you can also put the deek meat(after cooking) in the kebe labanie.
sehten ,

Mariyah said...

Our Jinn definitely need to talk!! Mine could do with a little lesson on morale boosters for humans...yours seems to have a flare for that!! ;-)

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I'm speechless... beautiful like you.

abufares said...

@lê
Thanks for the recipe. I'll try it with a Francolin at my first chance. We already prepare Ferrin (Quails) in a very similar way at home. We sauté them first in a little butter then cook them in the yogurt. It's delicious, yumyum.

abufares said...

@mariyah
anytime.... abufares at abufares dot net.
i couldn't find yours on your blog to start the conversation.

KJ said...

LMAO @ fornicating vessles

Gives a new meaning to test tube babies LOL

abufares said...

@kj
you see what i have to put up with... DJ i mean!

david santos said...

Hello, Abufares!
Excellent posting, my friend, excellent!
Happy day

abufares said...

@David Santos
Thank you my friend. I always enjoy your presence and appreciate your comments.
Have a Great Time

Anonymous said...

Abufares I was given a nice gift today ,4 (feris)each one is (tabet dehen)old phrases ,I still remember

Naji said...

Even when you are not "intellectually stimulated"... http://blogandshower.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/things-i-like-about-damascus/#comment-61

abufares said...

@lê
Lak Sahha w Hana... Enjoy it.

@Naji
I miss you dude. And, thank you for the nice words you've put for me at Sara's. I really enjoy her fresh perspective.

Sean said...

Ah, so *they're* the public toilets that you were talking about! I shall make a mental note not to use them next time I'm in Syria...

I'm very confused about Ps, Bs and Fs in Arabic now. Why is 'Palestinian' usually pronounced 'Filistinian', and not 'Bilistinian' then? I suppose it doesn't matter too much, given that I totally mangle your language every time I try to speak it ;-)

Anyhow, hope you're keeping well and that your next bus ride is just as enchanting...

abufares said...

@Sean
The F in Filistini is not to be confused with the B & P. It's just that Palestine is Filistine in Arabic, Syria is Souria, Lebanon is Lebnan, ...etc.
I don't have any idea how my next ride will turn out to be. However, it's disturbing that I'm riding a bus instead of a motorcycle:-(