Friday, March 11, 2011

How I Spent The Day of Rage

Message on the US Consulate website:

Participants on a few social media networks have called for a “Day of Rage” to take
place across the Kingdom on March 11. The U.S. Embassy cannot verify these calls,
nor do we have information about exact times and locations of possible demonstrations.
However, we take this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens to be alert to their
surroundings, to avoid any large gatherings, and to be mindful that spontaneous
demonstrations can occur anywhere. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can
become confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. If caught unexpectedly
near a demonstration, U.S. citizens should obey instructions from the police and leave the area as quickly as possible.

12.45am -- A colleague knocks on my door, reeking of home-brew and warns me that he had just been walking around and seen a lot of army trucks going by, and that a student had called him warning that "something big" would be happening on the next day.

We live in a peaceful suburban beach-side area; however, the center of discontent is only a few hours drive from here.

We make an evacuation plan in case the protests get ugly. We don't have our passports -- all employees' passports are held in place of the official residence and work permit they give us. We decide we'll drive down to an American compound an hour from here and try to get in there, should a lot of protesters end up dead.

1.00am -- The Internet reports that police have fired into a crowd of protesters. It is soon clarified that 3 people were injured, but the police were firing into the air over the heads of protesters.

1.10am -- I spend some time registering myself with the nearest consulate on the Internet.

1:35am -- I don't keep a "bug-out bag" per se -- but I have bags of things which can easily be assembled into one for speedy exit in case of emergency.

Bag #1 -- Practical things -- flashlight, rain slicker, multi-tool, duct tape. And some rope, I guess in case I decide to do some light bondage with some girl I meet at the airport.

Bag # 2 -- Medical things -- ace bandages, aspirin, antihistamines, disinfectant gel, and a couple of leftover tablets of Cialis from my last holiday. Can use that with the rope in case I meet a girl at the airport.

Bag #3 -- Survival rations -- 3 cans of tuna, 2 cans of sardines, a box of Ritz crackers, several liters of bottled water.

I examine these things and toss them together into one bag along with some tough-looking clothes -- black t-shirts, wife-beaters, wool socks, and cargo pants.

Considering the survival rations, I add a bag of mixed raisins and cashews. I saw footage of people trapped for several days at the airport in Cairo; I'll at least be able to eat. Because I assume the Sbarro's and the Krispy Kreme there will run out of food quickly.

Maybe I should add some laxatives to the medical kit, however.

I keep going to the window, thinking I hear people thumping around.

1:45am Can't sleep, so I watch another episode of RESCUE ME.

My God, Dennis Leary loses ANOTHER relative? What are the odds of that, even if they are cops and firemen.

2:30am -- Finally get in bed and fall quickly asleep.

10.45am -- Wake up and check the internet. Devastating earthquake in Japan, huge tsunami. I watch videos of waves covered with debris and flaming wreckage innundating farmland. Trying to think of the last time I checked the Internet and there WASN'T some huge disaster or mass murder.

What could you do to survive that, even if you were prepared? You'd have a little time to kiss your ass goodbye, that'd be about it.

11.15am -- Skype and Facebook filled with people wondering about my safety and the situation here. I go outside and the college is as deserted as it usually is on a day off. The prayer call starts. If anything happens it'll be after the prayer.

12.10pm -- I hear horns honking and jump up and carefully look outside, but it's just somebody's car alarm going off. The guy turns the alarm off and drives away. I walk outside; it's cool and raining.

A couple of students in casual Western clothes pass by and say "Hello teacher."

12.20pm -- My egg sandwiches are sublime as usual and I sit down to watch another episode of RESCUE ME. Dennis Leary trapped in another burning buildings? Well, I guess he is a fireman. . .

1.30pm -- I have a few household weapons -- I bought a pair of nunchucks for $10 in the city -- more for playing with than for any practical usage as a weapon -- and I have a light 16-inch long piece of pipe with duct tape wrapped around the handle.

I decide to go over to the supermarket; I put the piece of pipe in my rucksack, having no doubt that I can easily beat off any angry mobs I might encounter.

1.35pm -- I see a group of people outside the Recreation Center and wonder if it's an angry mob; it's just a bunch of guys playing soccer, however.

1.40pm -- On the 10 minute bike ride to the supermarket, I inhale my chewing gum and almost choke on it; I stop at the gas station and get a lemon-flavored Holsten non-alcholic malt beverage to wash it down. I cough and finally get it all swallowed.

That would certainly have been an ignominious way to die on the Day of Rage.

1.50 -- As usual there's a brisk after-prayer crowd at the supermarket but everything seems as usual.

I walk by the news stand: the headline of the English-language daily reads, "BUSINESS AS USUAL BUT EXPATS WORRY."

The subheads read -- "Foreign Journalists Chase Non-Existent Stories" and "Panicked SMS and email rumours fly"

2.00pm -- I see a couple of colleagues and most of them think that nothing much will happen. I'm sure people in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya said much the same, however.

2.45pm -- Watching tsunami videos on the Internet and listening to Howard Stern. Still no news of any protests, much less any violence.

3.17pm -- Another prayer call. Still no news.

I find the following:

The Gulf Civil Society Forum, a liberal pan-Gulf group, expected a low turnout because the call came from London-based Saudi dissidents who do not have a large following in the kingdom.

London-based dissidents, ha, issuing calls to protest from their hotel suites at the Ritz-Carlton.

and this:

Other Facebook youth activists have called for nationwide protests on March 20.

Shit, so there will be two Days of Rage this month? I'll note that down on my desk calendar.

3.32pm -- I'm looking at jobs on and considering where I'd go if I left here. . .

3.42pm -- Finally a new news story. AP reports that the Kingdom "launched a massive security operation Friday in a menacing show of force to deter protesters from a planned a "Day of Rage" to press for democratic reform in the kingdom.

Illegal demonstrations were supposed to start after Muslim Friday prayers at noon but as the mosques emptied there were no signs of rallies, with security men manning checkpoints in key locations across several cities."

Does that mean the Day of Rage is over, or didn't begin?

Maybe I'll go to the beach and go swimming. . .


Anonymous said...

I bet deep down you're disappointed nothing big kicked off...

Avoiding angry mobs, looting stores and having to find weapons sure would beat avoiding students, looting pens from other classes and having to find CDs which work.

TEFL SecretAgent said...

No news like bad news.

Eve said...

I can't believe you didn't jerk off, just in case.

I can definitely empathize with the edgy feeling of "maybe I'll have to flee/maybe I might die." Right after NKorea threatened to bomb us, I woke up hearing loud banging noises at about 5 am. I jumped out of bed in a panic, convinced that we were going to war. But it was just a bunch of drunk guys on their way home.

Sad about Japan. I was just thinking yesterday, "If the Kingdom turns all bloody, English Teacher X should totally go to Japan! I hear they pay pretty good there, plenty of hot Japanese girls ..."

Anonymous said...

I was listening to BBC World Service at 4.30 pm Local time (Riyadh) and they were still announcing that Saudi forces were patrolling the streets of Riyadh for a Day of Rage that was expected to happen. Come on BBC!!!! If it hadn't happened by 4.30 pm, how likely was it that it would happen????

ankmanpro said...

Oh wow... That kinda suckss. Followed!