Those PSD Teams – Sept 2006 (2)

Boss Tom has climbed up a ladder to the roof of the train station, following the contractor and two of his employees. It’s about 120F in the shade, 130F in the sun, and 140F in body armor. I don’t feel like climbing two stories up a rickety ladder to walk around on a concrete tile roof in the sun. I must be getting old …  

I wait in the yard below. My South African PSD guard stands as close as my shadow, bumping my elbow. The small station enclosure is quiet and still. Two contractor workers lean against a shady wall twenty meters from us, watching. I smile at them.

“How many years, missus?” one of them calls out.

I don’t understand what he’s said through his thick accent, so I give him a quizzical look and shrug.

“How rude!” my guard mutters. He must have understood what the man said …

“How many years?” the Iraqi man repeats, smiling and waving to me.

“He’s asking how old you are,” my guard says in a voice that betrays surprised outrage. “That’s rude! He can’t ask our women how old they are!”

Indifferent to the cultural rule that is insulting my guard, and ignoring the quaint if bizarre phrase our women, I grin at the Iraqi. “Forty six!” I call out to him.

I can practically feel the surprise pass through the body of my guard. Out of the corner of my eye I see him staring at me and sense it’s the number that’s surprised him more than the fact that I answered the question at all.

The Iraqi worker starts walking toward us, his friend trailing along. “Twenty six?” he asks me, sounding confused. “You, twenty-six,” he says more firmly.

I laugh and shake my head. He bends down and writes “26” in the dirt in front of me. He looks up at me with his eyebrows raised in a question.

I bend down to wipe the “2” away with one finger, replacing it with a “4.”

The Iraqi and his friend stare at me in utter surprise for a moment, then their faces break into wide smiles. They give me an enthusiastic thumbs up, nodding and grinning with approval.

I laugh, catching my guard’s eye. He’s grinning and nodding as well. He gives me another thumbs-up.

I’m secretly hoping he’ll give his teammate Max a heads-up. Max has been politely hitting on me. He’s twenty-four years old!

Every woman is a ten in Iraq. I guess it’s fun while it lasts …

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