Thursday, March 1, 2007

On Cannons and Princesses

The day before yesterday, I received a rather alarming phone call - this in a world where I routinely receive phone calls from a grand total of 3 people: Mr. Cat in Rabat, my supervisor, and a colleague who has the largest collection of telephones (cellular & ground) on the continent. To quote REM, "3 people have my number, the other 2 were with me" (which is wholly inaccurate as only 1 was with me), so at first I was perplexed and then taken aback when Mr. CinR walked into the living room proferring the phone, saying:

"It's the Embassy."

He said "it's the Embassy" like this is a routine occurrence. Like it happens all the time. Like the Ambassador was calling to set up our weekly euchre game.

He threw me an anxious look. Had there been an accident? Hence my sense of alarm - that and the fact that no one ever calls me.

"Hello ..."

It turns out that the Canadian Embassy, in a fit of backslapping efficiency, has decided to update its database of foreign nationals in Morocco, and, presumably abroad.

"After the muck-up in Lebanon, " cooed the heavily British-accented voice on the phone, "We want to make sure that we know where everyone is."

Muck up? Muck-up?

Now I have yet to visit my embassy in Rabat; its hours of operation never seemed to jive with mine so I registered my presence in Morocco online. Upon sending my particulars through their website, I was promptly advised that I would shortly receive an e-mail confirming my registration. That was 17 months ago. Had they used the same computer programmer as Royal Air Maroc? Needless to say, I am still waiting for that e-mail. Truth be told, I had forgotten all about it; I really didn't expect to be invited to any embassy garden parties and I suspect that Canada's new Governor General was not totally distraught at my absence at her recent reception in Rabat. As it turns out, I had been registered but beyond that, no one gave a rat's ass about me. I made a mental note to abstain from using the Government of Canada's online S.O.S. form, for "Canadians who require emergency assistance."

I asked the cooing heavily British-accented voice if she wanted to update Mr. CinR's information while she had me on the phone, for he too had taken advantage of the Canadian Embassy's efficient on-line registration service. She clicked away. "How do you spell it again?" "M-r. C-a-t i-n R-a-b-a-t." Nope, no record of him. Of course, it's only been 6 months so there's still hope that he'll be invited to this summer's Canada Day celebrations at the Embassy. He has already purchased sparklers in anticipation of the festivities.

Back to the cooing heavily British-accented voice:

"In the event of an evacuation, we need to know where everyone is."

Good plan! I know for a fact that I'd like to be among the first to be airlifted out. I lost no time in conveying my desire to her, to which she said nothing. Not even a conspiratorial giggle. Not even a snort of derision.

Basking in the knowledge that my Government is not only aware of my existence but is now overtly exhibiting avuncular concern for my well-being (at least in the case of an emergency), I continued on with my day. But as I was about to leave work last night, I was jarred out of my patriotic reverie by a blast - a blast from what? A car backfiring? Or had it happened? Had Islamic extremists finally let loose their hellish mandate against infidel-embracing countries like Morocco? I stopped on the stairway. Boom! I knew what to do in case of an earthquake, in case of a fire, in case of a nuclear attack (most of which involved hiding under things or rolling on the ground), but - Boom! - I had not been trained for heavy mortar. Boom! Damn!

Where in god's name was my cooing heavily British-accented voice now? Now when I needed her? Why had she not called me? The booming finally subsided; I went home, preferring to think that I had only been subjected to another tirade of crappy Moroccan catalytic converters farting en masse.

As it happened, it was cannon fire that I heard last night, a veritable 21-gun salute. Princess Leia Lalla Khadija was born to "The wife of Moroccan King Mohamed VI " (god almighty!) who, in fact, does have a name: Princess Lalla Salma. I needn't tell you that I was mightily relieved that Rabat hadn't been bombarded by terrorists last night, or that what I heard wasn't the sound of Kenitra's oil refineries exploding ... although, should that happen, I have full confidence that my Government will come quickly to my rescue. Hopefully I'll have my laptop handy so I can submit an emergency S.O.S. online form.

Addendum: congrats to the Royal Family and especially to the Dauphine. My gift to her are these pearls of wisdom: don't take any crap from your brother Crown Prince Moulay Hassan. Sure he's going to be king some day but you'll get to wear much nicer clothes. And please don't wear your hair like 2 bagels on either side of your head. It's been done. And it isn't a very pretty look.

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