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Today was a day of mixed feelings. It was planned that the driver would go collect the gas maintenance people and bring them to the apartment to take out the old broken down water heater and put in the new one. All this was supposed to happen around 8 am. But as usual the driver was late because traffic is totally unpredictable. Worse still on looking at my mobile I saw that there was no signal and that only emergency calls can be initiated. It is a good thing I have another, through another service provider, in case one network breaks down there is another network working as a back-up. So I called the driver on this other telephone, an hour after he was supposed to be there and he told me that he was just about to get to the maintenance office to collect the people and bring them. True to his word, five minutes later they were there.
They started working on getting the old water heater down, then putting up the new one. The contractor who had renovated the apartment after we had moved to the house must have been a complete nut. The convoluted way he set up the plumbing and electricity is mind boggling. Why does each of the three bathrooms and the kitchen have two main water switches? I remember I told him that I wanted an individual electric line to each of the washers, the dishwasher and the clothes washer, both in the kitchen, so we do not overload one line. To my total astonishment when I tried to use the clothes washer, when switching on the main switch for that machine, nothing happened. So I switched it off and tried switching on the one for the dishwasher, it came on. Ok at least one worked. I tried the first switch again, lo and behold, it came on. I was flabbergasted! The genius of an electrician put in two switches, one for each machine, but hooked them up on one electric line! So now if I want to use the clothes washing machine I have to turn on the switches of both machines. How do these people think? Don’t we have any codes?
Anyway, the gas people set up the new water heater and tried it with running hot water in the kitchen sink. It worked! I said to wait, most importantly to me is running hot water in the shower. I turned the water in there, nothing happened, the heater did not work. So started our adventurous journey into the mysterious world of the plumbing of the apartment. The number of different water switches that needed to be opened or closed, and the different combinations thereof, is overwhelming. Until we got the right combination of switches to be opened and those closed so that I have running cold and hot water in all the bathrooms and the kitchen, two hours had gone by. I was getting very restless, wanting to get to the hospital for my Mom. Then my other mobile rang. It was my brother, my heart sank. I answered, and when I did he jumped down my throat: Where are you? I said I was still at the apartment because the people were just finishing putting in the new water heater. He gave a bark of laughter and told me to call my Mom at the hospital as he was calling in and found her in a state of hysterics, told him that she had just been told that I had been in a car accident and had died. He gave me the head nurse’s mobile number which I dialed immediately. When she picked up I could hear my Mom wailing in the background. She immediately gave her the phone and I talked to her. She said who are you, and I told her it was I, her daughter, that I was still at the apartment while the water heater was being fixed, that they were nearly done and that I’ll be there within half an hour. She asked me again who I was and I told : Aida. She said, prove it! Huh? She said tell me something that only she and I know. For the life of me I could not remember a single thing that only the two of us knew. Suddenly I was struck by the absurdity of the situation of having to prove to my Mom that I am who I am and that I am alive. I started laughing, while she was on the other end wailing about my death. I started reciting the names of our pets: no go, anybody would know those. I told her my Father’s full name: anybody knows that. I dug deeper into my memory and told her her sister’s nickname. Her sister had been dead over twenty five years. She finally believed me but kept crying still wanting to know who else died in the car crash.
I hurried the people out of the apartment and hurried down where the driver was waiting and told him to hurry to the hospital. I could hear her wailing all the way down the stairs, I hurried up and into the room. Here I am, I am alive don’t cry. She looked at me then said yes, of course you are alive, it is your aunt, her sister, who had just died in a car crash. My aunt had died over twenty five years ago of old age!
All throughout the day she has been mourning one member or other of the family who had died in a car accident. The accident kept changing from a car that was hit by a bus on the way to Hurgada, to a full bus on its way to Alexandria overturning several times. The one common denominator is that my aunt is involved and gets killed. Sometimes I’m the one dead and sometimes my brother. It was a full day of mourning. Finally when things got really intense I called my brother who talked to her and calmed her down a bit, that both he and I were alive and well. Before he hung up she asked him to call back, which he did. With our family wry sense of humor, the moment she answered he said that he was her son calling her from the other side of the grave. She laughed and called him a name and was happy for a few minutes after he hung up.
Half an hour later we went back to mourning my aunt, so I called the doctor on duty, explained the situation, and he prescribed a tranquilizer, which they gave her, and she is now finally calm, except for a rampant imagination of those people swinging down from the roof into the fluorescent ceiling lamp. The bouquet of flowers became a dwarf sitting on the table, and the window with the different knobs is the face of a giant. Still, all that is better than mourning someone who has been dead for a quarter of a century.
A day of mixed feelings, a great many tears mixed with some laughter. A good day with no pain.
February 2, 2014

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