Letter from Anton in the Sinai to Jim


Dear Papa,

Just a quick story to cheer you up from your probable post-holiday catharsis:

About ten days ago Sam and I drove to Hurghada (b/c we had dive gear we couldn't fly - or maybe it was b/c Sam hates flying), so packed a film canister with "the product," henceforth to be referred to as "chocolate milk," and went on our happy way. Room at the InterConti was comped, as was food, and all I had to do was keep my mouth shut while Sam spieled his spiel and then make one "hydrographic survey," i.e. 35 minute dive on nitrox (it sounds very impressive to non-divers, as well as saying stuff like "We can only go down to 32 meters because we're diving on mixed gas").

The third day was meant to be our departure day, and we were bumming because we didn't have any chocolate milk left for the trip. Anyway, about 100 km out of Hurghada we're flying along at 130 km/hr and we hit a typically Egyptian patch of unmarked, unfinished road, i.e. raw gravel and tar. So we're passing this massive Lorry when suddenly, with a cracking noise kind of like the sound of a heavy solid object falling on a block of ice, the windshield completely shattered, albeit intact. So Sam puts his head out the window and we pull over, and I say, "Well, now we're fucked." I mean, we're sitting there in the middle of the fucking desert, and we're completely covered in tiny shards of glass - glass in your hair, glass in your clothes, glass in your face, glass in your ass, etc. - and the windshield is actually creaking and bending and bowing like it's going to implode any minute, and every gust of wind bends it in even further and little slivers of glass are raining down on the dashboard, so we decide to get out of the muthafucka before the situation comes to a head. Without thinking, we slam the car doors, which elicits a crunching sound from the windscreen and a couple of expletives from both Sam and me.

After a brief consultation period, we decided to take the car back to Budget in Hurghada, rather than continue the remaining 700 clicks to Sharm. We then armed ourselves with long-sleeve t-shirts and sunglasses ("in case she blows"), stuck our heads out the windows and headed back to the Intercontinental. We were doing well, putting along at 40 km when another massive Lorry passed us going the opposite direction, and with the consequent gust of wind we received a sudden smack in the face, courtesy of our cheap, Egyptian, non-trilaminated windscreen. Lucky for us we had our heads halfway out the car, b/c there was glass everywhere, and large chunks this time. The direction indicator didn't work b/c there was glass stuck in it, and even after they had replaced the screen and cleaned out the car we were still finding bits of glass days later in Sharm. So once again we pulled over, this time to clear out the remaining fringe of our windshield, which was accomplished by kicking the frame with our boots until all the glass had been shaken loose. As we were doing this, Sam got out his camera and we took a few pictures of our lovely Suzuki Swift, sans glass. I then said the Sam, "Hey, it could be worse." "How's that?" was his expected answer. "It could be raining." "Ha ha ha." And now I know what real irony is, and I know that God or Allah or Yahweh or whatever his name is knows as well, because seconds later, in the middle of the desert, 60 clicks from Hurghada, standing next to the car with no windshield, I felt the first drops of rain.

We jumped in the car but to our mild and momentary surprise the rain kept on coming in. So, Sam put his foot on the gas and we started cruising to Hurghada. The rain kept falling, harder and harder until it was really pouring, and we were getting absolutely soaking wet, when a truck in from of us lost some of its load - half a dozen bricks - right on the road in front of us. We passed him right quick and warned him about that, and then we passed some hitchhikers who didn't even bother to ask us for a ride. But after about 15 or 20 minutes the rain had stopped, so when we arrived in sunny Hurghada we were wet and covered in glass. All Budget had to say was that the Suzuki Swifts never had trilaminated glass, and that this sort of thing happens all the time. Reassuring stuff, let me assure you. I'm planning to buy one as soon as I get back stateside.

I'm out of here in a few days but keep sending me mail here b/c I'll pick it up when I get back from Lebanon.