phone line switch

I have stated before how hair-raising calling Yemen can be. Nowadays it has gotten better. Yet scarcely five years ago you knew that calling during Ramadhan, any of the two ‘Eids and during bad weather were a hit and miss of universal proportions.

One such incident happened back in early 2004. Why do I remember the year? It almost ended my marriage.

My husband had to make an emergency trip just before the start of Ramadhan. His favorite sister (mine too) had been badly bitten by one of the male camels. It was a time when the camels were brought across from another mountain region. As is necessary you bring the females and calves first, then the males, keeping them as separate as possible. One of the young males was stabled at the house during the time the females were being transported. He was in a foul mood- he wanted out; he could smell females in the vicinity.

In comes my sister-in-law to feed him and her wrist becomes the appetizer. It was horrific!

My husband flew in about 24 hours later to find everyone crying, hair pulling, or arguing seemingly oblivious to the woman’s excruciating pain. He immediately put her into a jeep and headed for Sanaa a good 8 hours away. There were closer options, but the Missionary Doctor said, ‘don’t bother, go straight to Sanaa, they’ll have better equipment’.

Then the calls back and forth between us started. He was frustrated and angry at a number of medical personnel, not getting what he knew was needed to repair all the damage to her mangled wrist. I was frustrated for him and for my sister-in-law’s sake because the men that insisted on accompanying my husband were of no help, refusing to let another female of the family travel to care for her.

At one point, some two days into Ramadhan, I made the mistake of calling shortly after Dhurh. ‘All circuits are busy, please try your call again later’. I would then get intermittent access, but my husband could not be reached. I switched cards and called again. That’s when all hell broke loose.

I dialed one number, a woman answers the phone. I call the second number thinking I dialed incorrectly. The same woman answers the phone. I’m so surprised I dial a third time back to the first number, again the same woman! Now I’m angry, ready to shred my husband! Dialed a fourth time, back to number-two phone, again the same woman!

Being at work, I couldn’t go off and do a war dance. I had depleted the two cards I had. So I asked my secretary to go buy a third and different card. Every conceivable thought was running through my mind! Two different numbers, same woman didn’t bode well for my husband’s continued existence!

In the meantime in Yemen, my sister-in-law had deteriorated as people argued over her. Now that I think on it, we were all a pack of selfish fools!

When the card finally arrives, my boss walks in. He knows I have a crises back home, and wants to sit in on the call so he can advise my husband on what to do should he need the advice. I take a deep breath and call again. The same thing. But by this time the woman on the other end is also highly agitated. My boss, God bless him, motions me to keep her on the line while he calls the same number on his mobile. If the connection was true- then the call he was making would sound busy, or the woman would pick up on the other line.

The women… We were almost hollering at each other, when the line my boss is calling to gets picked up by my husband. In the background as my boss puts him on speaker are the sounds of a pack of men hollering at each other. It was not the background noise for the woman I had on the line.

My boss quickly announces towards the phone, ‘you better speak up now son, or forever hold you peace- the phones in Yemen are about to divorce you!’

At precisely that moment the woman and I both realized we had been victims of party lines- crossed at a moment we really didn’t need and would rather forget. We apologized to each other, mine being more so, because my calls started this whole mess. I explained what was happening and she, graciously, understood. ‘You don’t know how close my own husband has been to getting hit with a pot!’ She said almost with a chuckle. ‘I have never gotten so many weird calls as I have today!’

I’ll say!

The call with my husband progressed just fine, my boss taking control of the situation, giving me time to collect myself. When I finally spoke to my husband all the doctors had ‘marching orders’ from my boss the Grand Puba! With frayed nerves I asked my husband, ‘Do me a favor, let’s agree not to expect me to make calls into Yemen while its Ramadhan, at least not during the day! This has been a ‘talaq’ moment!!’


1 Response to “phone line switch”

  1. March 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Oh!…that’s great helpful, it’s so right to me! Million thanks for the article,

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