There’s someone happy in Lebanon

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A glance at the title of this text is sure to take you on a wild trip aboard surreal setups that we wish actually existed. Yes, I am as confused as you are. There’s someone happy to be living in Lebanon. He is a taxi driver that once tried to open up his own taxi company but failed. Nevertheless, he remains happy. I got to know all of this as his car reeked of joy last Saturday night while he and I were deciding which route would bless us with the least traffic on that godforsaken night of the week.

The man had more moral messages up his sleeve than a Disney movie, “Whoever tells you a [public driving] license plate isn’t enough to build a home is a lying, gambling alcoholic who spends all his money on prostitutes!” he exclaimed. He had enough confidence to convince me he was telling the truth, and I really enjoyed believing him. It all started when I asked him about why his number showed the name of another taxi company on TrueCaller, an app that reveals caller IDs even if they’re not saved on the receivers’ phones, when he miss-called me signaling he had arrived.

“Oh, I owned that for a while,” he said, “then it failed, and now I’m here.” People usually grimace while recounting stories of failure. He was smiling. It was either he had gone mad or he had an inexplicable sense of comfort that I was eager to know more about. It was the latter. He was actually happy. Apparently, he had worked in Paris at some point. He was a baker’s assistant for six years. His daughter was born there, hence French, a nationality he wholeheartedly rejects because if you’re Lebanese, you need nothing else.

His discourse was based on the fact that there’s nothing you can’t do here. He defined life as a set of tangible things: a family, a house and food. He had all three here, topped with his favorite Arak that costs only 6,000 L.L. here, versus the equivalent of a hefty 30,000 L.L. back in Paris. “And they sell watermelons by the slice!” he said panting, “and cheese, and baguettes, and, and, and…” Paris obviously did not cater to his dietary requirements. Samples from his stories include elderly women harassing his young son for buying two baguettes, not one, and confused cashiers nosily asking him awkward questions about his giant shopping lists.

No one questions his choices here. He owns a house in Beirut and another in his village. He innocently smirks as he tells me his brother living in Paris is still paying rent. When the world attempts to crumble, when Beirut becomes less of the heaven he describes it as, he saves himself by working on the plantation in the yard of his village house. He owns the car we were in, and has kept it in perfect condition. He will hit retirement in four years, and is looking forward to his monthly pension. His children have jobs and both own their houses.

He is an eager entrepreneur. In four years, he is planning on resurrecting that failed taxi company of his with whatever he would have learned after his first round. He has been a taxi driver ever since the civil war and still loves it. Within his continuous romantic ballads of this country, he insists on asking me what is it that can’t be done here and is available abroad? “Nothing,” he always answered himself. I’m not sure he cared about my answers, and I had already decided to keep my mouth shut of the innumerable “everything(s)” I could have answered with. This happy conversation was not to be spoiled with my version of reality. His was enviable enough for me to want to agree with over and over again.

It’s nice to see someone intensely positive about something you’re extremely negative about. It’s also phenomenal to see someone that enthusiastic about this country in particular. He was quite a good driver, so I’m ruling out that he was under the influence that night not to burst my new-found temporary bubble. His excitement is still hard for me to absorb as I find myself downloading another ‘free’ communication app that offers me more ways to pretend my loved ones abroad are not that far away. Each for their valid reasons, most of the people I know are leaving, or have already left. It’s refreshing to know that there are reasons for someone to be this happy here… with factual evidence and all.

Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist living in Beirut

Comments

There's some one happy in Australia to.
It's me, it's me, it's me !

WATER
WATER SUPPLY
CONDENSATION
MASSIVE WATER SUPPLY PLANTS DERIVING WATER VIA CONDENSATION.

We are finally moving forward for the progressive people that we are.
Ape man has lost -
Have a look at small units which collect water via condensation & see how easy it is.
Tomorrow is upon us Raafat.

This is beautiful and refreshing, coming from- a similar, positive POV of -someone who lives abroad looking to move to Lebanon.

Thank you for this life confirming story.

haha

I really enjoy your columns. I'm curious, are they written in English or are they translated from the Arabic?

Thanks! They're written in English.

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