Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Morocco Wet n' Wild

You'll forgive the prurient Spring Break-esque title for this post (it is March after all), but I assure you that the marked absence of nubile wet t-shirted (wet) young things drunk on anemic American macrobrews (wild) does not make it any less wet and wild. Or wet n' wild, as the case may be.

My yesterday was wet and wild but in a very less R-rated way. More of a PG-13 with extensive some profanity, drug use (double-strength ibuprophen) and violence. (Sadly no nudity). Mr. Cat in Rabat and I were in search of a restaurant that offered a vegetarian option beyond the norm (i.e., cheese sandwiches and pizza) - perhaps a szechuan stirfry or a textured vegetarian protein chili - and then we woke up, slapped our foreheads in disbelief at our own silliness, had a good laugh, and went out for the same artery-busting, palate-numbing old-same same-old. As we rounded the corner onto Follow the Leader, in front of La Pause Gourmande (LPG) café, I slipped and fell. I fell hard because I slipped hard. I slipped hard because they had just sluiced the sidewalk with dirty wash water.

Water follows the dictum "out of sight out of mind" in Morocco. It is the norm here to dispose of water - in any quantity larger than a teacup - by tossing it into the ether and letting fall (in this case, water) what may (in this case, drenching anything in its trajectory). Drains, apparently, are not a viable option. Nor are those helpful cheery yellow plastic sandwich board signs (see above) that caution pedestrians in such situations. I confess that as much as I appreciated Mr. CinR's catching me (he was holding my hand at the time) and preventing my head from splitting open like an over-ripe papaya, I would have been more appreciative if any one of the under-employed waiters at LPG (it's normal to see a half dozen or so of them loitering by the doors) had rushed to my side and inquired about my condition. Maybe even offering me free pains au chocolat for the rest of my earthly existence. But why would they? The sidewalks are always in various stages of drying; clearly this was my fault. What was I doing walking with my eyes off of the sidewalk anyway? Where did I think I was? - in the capital city of a developing nation that receives a gazillion dollars in developmental aid annually? Pshaw! A pox on my hubris!

The Plight of the Pedestrian, about which I have already bitched about ad nauseam waxed so poetically, is perilous enough without the added complication of water. The sudden appearance of water - water from seemingly nowhere I might add - can dampen a day in a myriad of ways. Like me, the inattentive pedestrian may slip, and then snap, crackle and pop something. That's assuming that he or she hasn't already been hit by a car trying to park on the sidewalk, fallen into a hole in the pavement, or broken any one of several bones crashing into a concrete parking pylon. I was fortunate: I only sprained my hand. I would add however that it hurts a great deal (but thanks to Mr. N and to The United Kingdom for the mighty drugs) and I am compelled to type this post with one hand - such is my dedication to this craft (or kraft).

Water can also descend from above in a decidedly non-precipitation capacity. Pretty much anyone in Rabat who can afford to do so employs the services of a cleaning lady; indeed, the city is populated by a cadre of haggard blue smocked ladies, their hair tucked under winding turbans and headscarves. Among their duties is the onerous chore of washing floors. Since Rabat's air is a noxious cocktail of flying dust, grit and polar icecap melting-car exhaust, floors here need to be cleaned about every 6 hours. Pails of water are sloshed over freshly swept floors and the water is then squeegeed out onto the terrace or balcony, from where the only way out is down through a drain hole contrived for that very purpose. I confess that I have yet to be the victim of this not-quite celestial deluge but only through the grace of Allah (whose wrath I have probably just incurred). Twice I've escaped a stinking soaking of domestic acid rain by a meter or so; once it completely soused my companion. She was not a pretty site. And she smelled rather peculiar.

The moral of the story? Alas, there is none. Do I really expect a thousand and one cleaning ladies to change their routines? No, but maybe they could look over the balcony for passers-by or shout out the odd "heads up!" before they hurl (or push) bucketfuls of dirty water over the heads of unsuspecting pedestrians. And maybe - just maybe - Rabat's cafés & businesses might want to consider placing a few of those pretty little "Slippery When Wet" signs on the very sidewalks they have just made treacherous. After all, they're decorative and functional (the signs not the sidewalks). One of these days, someone will sue. And that lawsuit might even be able to extricate itself from the quagmire of Morocco's bureaucratic judicial system and actually see the light of day. I just hope that I'm here to witness it. On second thought, maybe not.

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