Sweet Hasan, and Why I Work

A few weeks ago, while visiting my grandson, he said, “Stay with me, Gramma. Don’t go to work tomorrow.”

“I have to go to work,” I replied. “I’d love to stay with you, but tomorrow is a work day, and I have to work tomorrow.”

“No! I don’t want you to go to work!” he cried, tears erupting from his eyes.

“I don’t want to go to work, either, Habibi, but I have to go.”

He pouted, with big, dreamy eyes and a poked out lip. “No more work,” he begged.

“I’m sorry, Hasan, but I have to go to work. That’s how I get my money. If I don’t work, I don’t get money. Without money, I can’t buy gas for my car, and I can’t come and see you, and I can’t take you places or buy toys for you.”

His eyebrows drew down as he thought about this. “Buy me toys?”

“Yes,” I replied, relieved that I’d touched a spot that would help him let me go.

He brightened. “OK! You can go to work tomorrow!”

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This morning, Hasan phoned me and asked, “Gramma, do you have to go to work today?”

“Yes, Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I have to go to work today.”

“No! I don’t want you to go to work!”

“I don’t want to go, either. I’d rather spend the day with you, but I need to get more money.”

“Why do you need money?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, suddenly feeling the weight of work and the need for money, “I need money to pay for my food, my clothing, my electricity, my car… and to buy you toys! Remember? I need money to buy you toys.”

“Gramma,” he said slowly, “I don’t need any more toys.”

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As true as it is that I need to work, and as true as it is that thousands of people are now out of work and cannot earn money even for their basic needs, I felt resentful that I cannot spend the day with this lovely boy, this dear boy who is getting his first lesson in the necessity for work, and isn’t liking it.

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On second thought, I could have given him a more positive lesson. I should have said something about contributing to society, making myself useful to others by means of work, fulfilling my need to do productve activity, etc., but that would have been false, and he would have known it.

For me, work is nothing more than a means to make money, and I work no more than absolutely necessary to earn the absolute minimum needed to live comfortably. Ironically, my work was the sole reason I ended up in Riyadh, and that was an experience I wouldn’t have traded for anything.

No Pooping on My Property!

Yesterday morning, I noticed a man lingering at the end of my driveway. I went to the door for a better look, and saw that he held a leash, at the end of which a little dog was poking its nose in the grass. “Not again,” I thought to myself. I come upon this scene regularly, with different men, women, and dogs, but the scenario remains the same. The dog wants to poop, and the owners think nothing of letting it poop on my property.

When seeing this, I always go outside and say, “Good morning,” or, “Good afternoon,” or whatever, and quickly proceed before it’s too late, “Please do not let your dog poop on my lawn.”

Invariably, the adult holds up the little plastic bag, the glove and the spoon, and says, “I pick up,” as though that should reassure me, but they misunderstand.

“Yes, I know you pick up, but I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t let your dog poop on my grass.”

At this point, I might get a dirty look, but you’d be surprised how many dog-walkers repeat the bit about picking up the poop. They actually think I should be OK with dogs pooping on my lawn simply because they pick it up. What they don’t realize is that they can never pick it up entirely.  Traces remain, and other dogs smell it and think they’ve found the toilet.  Also, I have to walk on that lawn when I cut it, and my grandkids run on it when the weather is nice.

Yesterday, after the man shook his little plastic bag at me, and repeated, “I pick up,” and I repeated, “Yes, I know, but I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t let your dog poop on my grass,” he replied, “Don’t worry, she won’t do anything.”

I stood there for a moment, watching the dog root around for a likely spot. “You can let your dog poop over there,” I suggested, gesturing to the neighbor’s lawn, “or over there,” I added, gesturing to the lawn across the street.

“Don’t worry, she won’t do anything,” he repeated.

I started walking toward him, not wanting to become rude, but feeling my heart-rate accelerate.

“I’m asking you nicely not to let your dog poop on my grass,” I said, and he finally pulled the dog along. I stood there until they meandered across the street, where the dog immediately dropped its nose and then its haunches.

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During my twelve years in Riyadh, the only dog I ever saw was a big brindle Boxer running loose in the city. I felt sorry for the dog, who had obviously escaped from his Western expat compound, and was now lost. He would come to a bad end in Riyadh, where no one loved dogs, and no one kept them.

Most Arabs dislike dogs, and will avoid them. Their abhorrence originates from a religious belief in the ritual impurity of dogs, a belief that is controversial, and sometimes exaggerated.

Before living in Riyadh, I loved dogs, but after twelve years during which not a single dog crossed my path, except that poor loose Boxer, I was used to living without them. In fact, I grew to appreciate an atmosphere free of dog hair, dog breath, and other leavings. I started to wonder why anyone in his/her right mind would keep a dog in the house, and have to feed it, clean up after it, walk it, and treat it somewhat like a member of the family.

Upon repatriation, I noticed that most American households— most, I am not kidding— had dogs. Some people kept more than one. Strangely, all these dogs sat home in empty houses every day because everyone worked.

When I was a youngster in the 1950s, only married couples with children kept dogs. Single people did not keep dogs or even cats, out of a consideration for the emotional well-being of the animal. We believed that pets should not stay alone all day while adults  worked. We believed that domesticated animals belonged with families where women stayed home and took care of the household matters, including dogs, and children came home from school early enough to take dogs for walks before dinner.

Anyway, today’s pet owners think nothing of leaving their dogs and cats home alone all day, sometimes in crates. These people are clearly in the majority, but I remain in the minority. I still don’t believe pets belong in empty houses while the human occupants run off to work or school all day, and sometimes into the evening.

In any event, I do not want dogs pooping on my lawn. I’m ready to put up a few NO POOPING signs. I’ve seen these little signs in stores, but my mom (with whom I live) thinks they look tacky, so I have to keep an eye on the lawn through the front window. I’m on the poop-patrol, and I chalk up one more way in which my Riyadh years changed my life in a fundamental way, taking me further away from mainstream America than I could have imagined.