The Yellow Sand Road
I’ll tell you something, but you have to promise to keep it a secret. A woman can use both the left and the right side of her brain simultaneously. This makes women naturals at negotiating. Trust me when I tell you that against women’s shrewdness and cunning, men have as much chance as lambs in a slaughterhouse. I may have held executive positions in major corporations and negotiated some tough contracts, but all that skill and experience is useless when I have to negotiate with my lady for something as simple as an extra five minutes in front of the TV.
Case in point: Not long ago, I was a senior executive at a major pipeline services company in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada. One Friday evening, I finished a grueling day at the office and drove home in my brand-new, luxury Grand Cherokee (compliments of said company). I pulled into the attached, triple-car garage of our four-bedroom house with built-in gymnasium and hot tub, located on a hill overlooking the Rockies. Yes, life was good.
I knew my lady had gone on a shopping spree and wouldn’t be home until late that evening. As I entered the house, I looked forward to an evening spent in front of the TV. To my amazement, I found her sitting in the lounge, wearing very little and holding a bottle of Prestige de Grand Bateau Bordeaux. She poured me a generous glass of the red wine and gave me a smile.
Now, you may think that I suffer from paranoia, but I knew that smile. It meant—Come, tangle yourself in my web. I nervously swallowed a mouthful of wine, smoothed my necktie, and sat uneasily on the edge of the sofa.
She said, “Why so far away? Come sit next to me.” She paused as she took an intentionally slow sip from her glass. A faint smile of invincibility was flickering on her lips. “I have something to tell you. We are moving to the Middle East. I’ve been contracted as an emergency physician in Abu Dhabi, and it pays more than what you make here. So, please come with me?”
Now does that sound like an invitation, or a threat to you? See, you’re confused too. To me, it sounded more like a challenge—Come on, give me a reason to cry so I can make you feel guilty.
Well, I had to defend my position, as God made men foolish for the enjoyment of women, so I articulated, “But we’re happy here.” I saw her smile dissolving but I persevered, “I’ve a great job, we have a great house, and you live a life of luxury while I work. Why do you want to change all that?”
“It’s bloody cold here,” she retorted and then she played the trump card that literally stopped all arguments, “and there are no palm trees.”
“And it’s rather hot over there in the Middle East.” I tried to use her logic in reverse and gulped wine, hoping that intoxication would build my inner strength.
“Why are you always so difficult?” Her brow narrowing implying it was time for me to surrender. She continued, “Why don’t you support me? We’ll have a company car and a house, and they’ll pay for our vacation and utilities. Isn’t that great?”
I must admit, it sounded wonderful. But the Middle East was no Canada. I’d heard that people there were lashed in public for traffic violations and had their hands amputated for minor offenses like pick pocketing, not that I had any such plans. And they harassed everyone who looked like they came from America, Americans and Canadians alike, because they believed that everyone from America belonged to the CIA. I don’t think our foreign ministry has done a good job of educating Arab states on the differences between Canada and the United States—such as its being a different country, eh. They believe we are all part of the big ol’ USA—but then, there might be some truth in that.
I sat contemplating these tales for a few moments, delicately holding my wine glass by its long elegant stem with my pinky extended out, when, taking my momentary silence as submission, she added, “And guess what? They have no income tax there.”
That was it. I was really getting sick of playing the catch-up game with Revenue Canada, and knew I would never win. I almost spilled my wine I stood up so fast. “What the hell are we waiting for?” I cried. “Let’s go to Abu Dhabi.” A few months later, I’d resigned from my job, we’d sold our house, and we were off to see the sheikh, the wonderful sheikh of Abu Dhabi.
One sunny day, like all other days, we sat admiring the ocean from the balcony of our complimentary two-bedroom apartment while drinking copious quantities of red wine bought with my lady’s tax-free income. Granted, it wasn’t a sprawling house overlooking the Canadian Rockies. But hey, it was free. And the ocean was a true azure blue, so I decided I could get used to this lifestyle.
Abu Dhabi City, the capital of Abu Dhabi emirate, is the largest of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, commonly known as the UAE. It includes Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Khor Fakkan, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, and Sharjah. Doesn’t that sound better than Moose Jaw? The UAE, a member country of the Gulf Cooperation Council that also includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, borders Saudi Arabia in the south and southwest, Oman in the east, Qatar in the west, and the Arabian Gulf in the north. Well, one does feel surrounded and in the middle of the, hmm, ‘The Middle East.’
In Abu Dhabi you feel like you are living in a tiny, artificially created sheikhdom surrounded by the mighty and fierce Middle Eastern powers. Talk about being in a hot spot, and of course, one needs a lot to drink here—and I don’t mean just water.
I heard that during the Gulf War (the first one, not the sequel), when Saddam Hussein was planning his invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, he was asked how big an army he would need to attack the UAE. He replied that a mere fax message ought to do it. And he wasn’t kidding (but I am). Small they might be but the emirates are a shining example of modern and model states.
I was astounded to learn that in Abu Dhabi and most of the other emirates, consumption of alcohol is not prohibited, as it is in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. Here we have nightclubs, bars, and even cheap Russian cabarets. Mind you, there are only two liquor stores in the whole city, and to buy alcohol you need a permit from the government. The amount of alcohol you can purchase on a permit depends upon your salary. The higher the salary, the higher the amount of alcohol you’re allocated. I would have thought that people with low salaries had a greater need to drink.
The UAE is truly a jewel in the Arabian Gulf. But you don’t call it the Arabian Gulf in Iran. There, it is known as the Persian Gulf. So when you go to Iran, don’t make the same mistake I did. (Americans can ignore this advice, of course, since Iran doesn’t want you there anyway.)
But back to my story. As we gazed out over the ocean from our balcony, I stretched out my feet and took another sip of my wine. I held a smug smile, looked at my lady and raised my glass, “Here’s to the tax men.”
She smiled and reminded me that, in order for me to enjoy a tax-free income, I had to have an income first. I was in Abu Dhabi as an accompanying spouse and on her sponsorship. Yes, you have to be sponsored to live here, and since she was the breadwinner, I was at her mercy. Did it hurt my manly ego? Of course not—I was already halfway through the bottle of wine. I grabbed it again to refill my glass.
I’ve been told that red wine is good for you. I just can’t remember if it’s a glass a day or a bottle a day. I’m happy not knowing the answer.