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Reason we will not regret departing Dubai #32,557

Our water pump in the villa has been broken for about a year. At one point Husband tried to fix it, but instead he broke the bypass tap. Now that we plan on renting the villa, we realise we have to address the problem, so it fell to me to call Emrill and schedule an appointment.

About a year ago, we had Emrill come to look at the water pump. In fairness, they did indeed look at it; they might even have kicked it a couple of times. Then they charged us US$ 300, which they claimed was for fixing the problem, but was ACTUALLY for standing around feeling their armpits and the inestimable pleasure of their company.

So I called 800-EMRILL:

Me: Hello, I’d like to have someone come and fix our water pump, please.

Customer Service: What is the problem, Madam?

Me: The water pump is broken.

CC: What’s wrong with it?

Me: It’s not working.

CC: Ok. Where are you located?

Me: Springs 2, Street 12, Villa 66-

CC: Villa 9

Me: No, Villa 66-

CC: Yes, Villa 9-

Me: No, Villa 66, S-I-X  S-I-X

CC: Someone will come.

Me: Thank you. Er, when?

CC: Maybe today.

Me: Ok, can you give me an idea what time?

CC: I say, today.

Me: Well, I’m not going to be in the house this afternoon-

CC: Please call if you go out.

Me: You have no idea when someone might arrive? Do you really think this is an efficient way to do business?

CC: What is this word: ‘efficient’?

Me: Listen, I have much better words than that.

When I put down the phone, it took me half an hour to unclench my buttocks.

Now, according to Murphy’s Law of Existentialism, the only way to guarantee the maintenance man would show up was to leave the house. This is absolutely sound, failsafe logic with only one flaw, admittedly a large one: I would not be there when they arrived.

I spent ages agonising about whether to call Emrill to inform them I was going out; or to not call Emrill in order to fully convey the extent of my pettiness and ire; or whether I should call them – not to tell them I was leaving – but to communicate just how much I RESENTED calling.

Then I forgot all about it.

When I returned to the house that evening, there was a card on the door informing me that I had not been in the house, and that I should call Emrill to reschedule.

It took me a week to summon the energy. Finally, one morning, I was feeling up to it. The sun was shining, the birds singing, I’d slept well. My coffee was just strong enough to be peppy without burning my eyes.

Me: Hi, I’d like to reschedule a maintenance appointment.

CC: <in thick accent> Job number.

Me: Sorry- did you say job number? Right. <reading off the card> S-

CC: <thicker than three day old custard> S-P-R-B-D-F

Me: What? Sorry, the card only says S-6249.

CC: <big sigh demonstrating superior lung capacity> The full job number is SPRBDF-6249.

Me: Ok, that’s nice.

CC: The man, he went to your house. But there was nobody there-

Me: Yes, and I’m really terribly sorry about that.

CC: Oh dear, oh dear. The job, it is very old.

Me: Well, I logged it last week.

CC: Very old. I will have to be making the new job card.

Me: Yanno, WHATEVER.

CC: I am making new card. What is the problem, Madam?

Me: Same problem I reported last week.

CC: What is this?

Me: Is it not on the old job card?

CC: <silence>

Me: Ok, the water pump is broken.

CC: What is wrong with it?

Me: It’s BROKEN! If it was <expletive deleted> WORKING, I wouldn’t be CALLING YOU, WOULD I?

CC: Is there someone being in your house?

Me: Indeed, I will sit around all day on the off chance that someone from Emrill might grace me with a visit at any moment hereby unspecified.

CC: I am thanking you for your call, Madam.

Me: Gnrnragh!

This time, my buttocks were so clenched I couldn’t get up off the chair. I banged my head off the table for a while in a futile attempt to relieve frustration. In the end, the only thing to do was call Emrill back.

Me: Hello, I’d like to CANCEL job number SPRBDF-6260.

CC: What is the job number?

Me: S. P. R. B. D. F. Siix. Twooo. Siiiix. Zeeroooo.

CC: So, you logged this yesterday-

Me: This morning.

CC: No, you logged it yesterday.

Me: You know, I remember quite well when I logged it, because it was only five minutes ago-

CC: No, the date on the card is twelve November.

Me: I think you will find, with a bit of research and some relatively untaxing powers of deduction, that today is twelfth November.

CC: Is it?


CC: Ok, the job is cancel.

Me: Do you want to know WHY I’m cancelling a job I logged five minutes ago?

CC: No.

Me: Well, I’m going to tell you anyway! So there! It’s because Emrill is rubbish! I hope the quality of maintenance is better than the level of customer service, because if not, there are a whole bunch of houses that will probably collapse into a whole pile of rubble after your maintenance men visit! So far, I have found Emrill’s customer care to be possibly the most tragically awful, uninformative, apathetic, enraging bunch – which is saying something in a country hardly renowned for its customer relations!

CC: <silence>

Me: Ok, bye.

The Great Escape

So this is the year we finally leave Dubai. In the same way that a cross-dressing 70s swingers Tupperware party seems like a splendid idea three weeks in advance, the time to make good on the lip service now approaches like a swarm of killer termites.

For so long I’ve talked about leaving the Middle East ‘in 2007’, but you know, it was YEARS away. I would say: ‘I’m not spending a decade in this place,’ but then I’d only been here a couple of years. Maybe three, or was it four and a bit?

Now 2007 is upon us; our departure is imminent; and I’m absolutely terrified.

It’s hard to believe that nine years ago a 25 year old Me rocked up in the UAE toting a family sized bottle of SPF 370, a rucksack and a truckload of enthusiasm. I was so green about the gills people occasionally thought I was afflicted with mould. The world was my oyster.

In fairness, I totally underestimated the effort it would take to digest said oyster. People tried to warn me. They said, ‘but you’re leaving all your friends!’ I’d respond, ‘Meh. Friends come and go. I’ll make new ones. People are interchangeable.’ [Of course, I was wrong: people AREN’T interchangeable, as I discovered when I tried to find another hairdresser.]

The loneliness nearly killed me – seriously, one day I actually had to run away from The Light. I’d failed to anticipate the sheer exhaustion of setting up home in a new country: making friends, settling into a new job with 6-day working week, buying a car, finding and furnishing an apartment. It was a phenomenal shock to the system.

So in theory, moving to NZ should be easy. After all, I’ve had two practice runs (three, if you count the time I moved to Dublin to live with the nuns). Since I’m not doing it alone, there is not the same imperative to bribe strangers to be my friend. Husband will share the workload of wrapping up our life and tying up the loose ends. Should I be crushed in a freak accident involving a van, a leather sofa and a burly mover called Hamish, Husband can alert the ambulance services (i.e. less risk).

Yet it doesn’t matter how many pep talks I give myself in the bathroom mirror: I’m still dreading it.

Much as I despise the place, I have lived in Dubai for over a quarter of my life. As I get older I find that I like routine (next I’ll be preceding sentences with ‘in my day’ and taking up gardening) (last week I changed my computer accessibility options to ‘disabled’ for the bigger fonts) (at least give me credit for knowing where to locate the Accessibility tab). I like knowing exactly where to find pickled peanuts in Spinneys, cycling to The Lime Tree for my soy latte, playing tennis with Husband in the evening, or cooking dinner in my kitchen. Also, this is where Husband and I met and, for better or worse, it is our home. We have been so happy here.

But whereas before, moving halfway around the world was a madcap screwball adventure, now it is a tedious chore fraught with anxiety. When I think of the preparation that needs to be done – getting our affairs in order (and I’d like to know: exactly when did we become equipped with AFFAIRS? We’re too young to have affairs!) – I feel quite panicky.

There is not much I will miss about this city, but those things include: the beach in the mornings, swimming in The Gulf, the muezzin call to prayer, barbeques in the garden, sunshine in winter, and most importantly (not to make the same mistake again) our friends.

And yet I will not miss the smog, the roads, Ramadan, the transient nature of this place, the casual discrimination that passes as normal, the disregard for human life, the hypocrisy, the summer, the cockroaches, the way every little bit of emotion and kindness is censored while gore-smeared violence is presented in all its glory.

According to weight, the bad far outweighs the good. I am sure we will settle into NZ and wonder why we waited so long. But I’ll be sure to spend the interim fretting about it

I like to ride my bicycle

Since leaving The Company, I used to drive to the supermarket, the gym and make occasional forays to proximate shopping centres – Ibn Battuta or Mall of the Emirates. However, most of the time the car sat in the garage collecting sand and ‘CLEAN ME’ messages on the windows.

Upon moving to The Springs, Husband and I often discussed getting bicycles, but . . . look, I can’t even think of a decent excuse. To be honest, laziness was a large factor. We agreed that it was such an effort even TALKING about getting bikes, what was the likelihood we’d ever dredge up enough energy to cycle the things?

However, before Christmas Husband brought me shopping and I picked out a mountain bike, which he accessorized with front and rear lights, bell and basket for Christmas. Danny got me an XXXL reflective jacket.

And so I am a familiar figure around the community, carefully cycling along on my bike, basket brimming with toilet rolls and celery sticks.

The other morning I set out to cycle up to Ibn Battuta. Rather than risk my sanity on Sheikh Zayed Road (which would have been, I found out later, illegal), I thought I’d blag my way into the Jumeirah Islands Residential Community adjoining our neighborhood, which lets out the other end at the mall.

As I cycled towards the Jumeirah Islands Security Post, I decided the best course of action would be to charge by at a fast clip. Unfortunately, I am not well practiced with the fast clip, my top speed being more a gravity-defying wobble. The Security Guard, unimpressed with the ‘White European Female’ royal wave which nearly brought me down, shot out of his shed and held up an authoritative hand.

“You can’t pass here,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Jumeirah Islands is a private development.”


[I’ve noticed that the damsel in distress routine cuts it less and less. I think you need a quivering bosom for full effect, and now that I was stationery my bosom was commensurately immobile.]

“Look,” I said. “If you don’t let me through I’ll have to cycle up Sheikh Zayed Road and I’ll die. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience now, would you?”

I detected a slight hesitation.

“Madam, do you have friends or relatives residing in Jumeirah Islands?”


“Yes! Yes, I have both friends AND relatives living in Jumeirah Islands.”

“Where do they live?”

[So. He was going to make me lie for it – and as you are aware, I am just so very very bad with the porkies, the evidence for which I am about to conclusively demonstrate.]

“Er. On top of the hill. Over there,” I gestured vaguely. “By the er, island.”

“And what is your . . .”


“What is your friend-who-is-also-a-relative’s name?”

“Bob,” I said with authority. Having observed The Master (Husband) for over eight years, I know that successful falsification requires Authority. If there had been a table to hand, I would have thumped it.

“Bob who?”

“Marley,” I said instantly. “No! No! I meant Quealy. Sorry, Quealy. Not Marley.”

“Which is it?” said the Security Guard with no small measure of impatience, although I’m pretty sure that somewhere deep down – or not so deep at all – he was enjoying himself immensely.

“Bob Marley Quealy. With a hyphen. Marley-Quealy. He was formerly a Quealy but married a Marley. No, that’s not right, hang on. No, yes, that was just his name. IS his name, I mean – he’s not dead. He’s very much alive and living in Jumeirah Islands, on top of the hill beside the island in the middle of the desert. Please don’t ask me any more questions. Can I go now?”

No doubt because I had provided more entertainment than the man had seen in WEEKS, the Security Guard waved me on.

Since then I have found a shortcut through the perimeter fence and most days I cycle up to Ibn Battuta to write in peace in The Lime Tree Café.

In the four weeks since, I have become more proficient with the cycling. After days of daring, I finally mastered The Kerb Wheelie, although on two occasions I inadvertently head butted the pavement. The first time, although I successfully popped the front wheel in the air, I misjudged the distance by about a foot, give or take three. The front wheel landed in front of the kerb and I got intimate with the handlebars followed swiftly by the pavement.

The second time, having got the front wheel up the kerb, I was so overwhelmed with my own skill that I paused to give a victory salute, thereby neglecting to pedal. When the back wheel encountered the kerb I promptly toppled over.

Even when trundling around in Tank Central (the Yukon), the road conditions here – ie drivers – are beyond terrifying. When cycling, I stick to the pavement where possible. Even this route is fraught with danger, what with rabid dogs, psychotic toddlers, and uneven paving stones.

I am often required to cross the two x two-lane road in The Springs, which is equipped with the odd pedestrian crossing. The crossings are a bit hit and miss and, lthough I generally aim for ‘miss’, I would probably have better luck betting on the geegees as to whether and which cars might stop at the pedestrian crossings. Most drivers like to speed up for them. Occasionally, when I’m paused at a crossing waiting for both lanes to clear, a misguided driver will pull to a stop, which results in enraged drivers thundering past in the other lane blaring horns and shaving my eyebrows off.

Despite all this, I love getting around under my own steam and being out in the fresh air. By ‘fresh air’ I mean the chemical-laden fug masquerading as oxygen around these parts.

I realize that perhaps I haven’t painted the most idyllic picture of me and my bike, so here is a whole list of perquisites:-

1/ The sand blast/dermabrasion effect that Cleopatra’s Spa would undoubtedly describe as: “Fine sand hand-picked from the Arabian Desert gently massaged into every pore of your body,” for which it would charge Dhs500

2/ The glorious scenery: buttercup strewn fields, country lanes wafting honeysuckle, charming villages with giggling children running after you down the narrow cobblestone streets

3/ Cycling with no hands – which I’m sure will be a big thrill when I master the trick

4/ The daring intrepidness of it all

5/ Ringing my bell. It’s great

6/ There’s got to be another reason. Oh, how about the health benefits? Big thighs: there’s number six

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