November 20, 2010

On Zen, the ABC Christmas Tree and Anger Management

I’d say I’m pretty Zen these days. I rarely ever lose my temper anymore. I made that oath to myself last summer, and I must say, I have done quite well so far. Maybe it’s the age. Maybe it’s the experience. But I tell you, there isn’t much that gets me upset. Except stupidity. There’s plenty of that around here, I’d say, but even that rarely gets me in distress.

Scooters driving against traffic at night without light and helmet at breakneck speed? Cars backing up on the highway? Socialites cutting me off in their Porsche Cayenne while on the phone? It doesn’t faze me. Soldiers that observe you while you park in an incredibly tight, but perfectly legal spot, let you go back and forth 20 times, see you getting out of the car and locking your door and while you walk off proceed to tell you they’re going to park their tank there? I’m cool.

But today I lost my cool. It was over that ‘mamnouah’ thing.

Mamnouah, for non Arab speakers, means ‘not allowed’. And the weirdest things are not allowed in this place. I can throw my housekeeper off the balcony without so much as a visit to the police station, triple park and block the entire traffic flow during rush hour, or buy under-the-counter-counterfeit DVD’s over the counter, but boy, once you start taking pictures of things, some pretty weird rules come out of the closets. Actually, I seriously doubt they’re existing rules. Just some idiot behind a desk who decides because he can.

I was in the ABC mall this afternoon, shopping with my daughter for her birthday present. These days she wants an active say in what I buy her, otherwise I risk having to exchange it.

And so we pass by this gigantic Christmas tree made out of teddy bears in the ABC store. There must be thousands of bears on that tree; the thing is four stories high, if not more. And so H. decides she needs a picture of her in front of that tree. As I am making a picture, a security guard comes to me.

Madame, mamnouah,” he says.

I don’t get it. What on Earth could be forbidden here? I’m not taking pictures of the merchandise, I’m not photographing veiled women, I’m not engaging in anything dangerous, my daughter’s not spitting over the balustrade, there’s no celebrity on the floor; What on Earth could be ‘mamnouah’ about me photographing my daughter in front of a Christmas tree with a million or something teddy bears.

The tree. It’s mamnouah.”

It is amazing how this poor teenager in zits and a uniform managed to unleash this horrendous rage in me. Have you ever heard of a nano second? Some say that in Lebanon it is the time between the light turning green and the first car honking its horn behind you. Well, you can ask that security guard how fast I got upset. It must have been a split nano second.

Mamnouah!? Taking a picture of the tree is forbidden? Where’s your boss? Go get your boss. Get your boss right now!” The gates of hell had opened, I tell you that. It will be months before I can show my face in that part of town again.

I played my role as the bitchy foreigner quite well, I must say. The poor kid couldn’t do anything about it, of course, some idiot in the office had obviously outdone themselves and given him this pathetically idiotic order; “nobody is supposed to take pictures of the Christmas tree. It is a matter of national security.” I can imagine him going home tonight to his family. “And how was your day today?”Well, I encountered this menopausal woman who totally blew her top over a simple request.”

The boss never materialized. This ranting and raving woman took him obviously quite by surprise. I tell you, had he made a move for my camera, he’d gone over the balustrade. I eventually was escorted out of the shop by my daughter who was afraid we’d end up in jail and she apologized to the guard that her mother was known for having ‘anger management issues.’

I do not have anger management issues; but christ on earth, what could possibly be ‘mamnouah’ about taking pictures of a Christmas tree? I therefore have a request for you. Please, all of you, go to the ABC mall, and make many many many pictures of that friggin’ bear tree, will you.
I think we should even organize a flash mob event there, right around the darn tree. Boy, they will remember the day they forbade me to make a stupid picture of their stupid tree.
 
And you get to see the tree twice! Just because I was not allowed to picture it. Please, spread this state secret around.Highly secretive tree.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

hummm I wonder if all these teddys wouldn't be better with children :/ I'll pass the message anyway :)

Anonymous said...

YOU GO GIRL!!!! That prick had no right to tell you that! If they don't want people admiring the tree, they shouldn't have put it up. Keep fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

I have been checking your blog for days waiting for something... This took me by surprise... There have been worse things going around that could have made you lose your ZEN... Making a picture of a Christmas tree!!!!Honest(lee), this is what made you lose it. I wonder what the essential question would be.
H

Mustapha said...

Consider the message spread :)

[ j i m m y ] said...

classic sietske! you should have toppled that tree! would have made a million children happy :)

Anonymous said...

I made a rough estimate of the number of bears in this tree: somewhere in the order of 5.000. Each bear has a sales value of, well let's say 10 US$, so that would be a 50.000 US$ Christmas Tree. Maybe they are a little ashamed and don't want to see their own tree on the internet?

Nina said...

this happens every year, and forget about Christmas or decoration! try taking a photo of the weird egg-shaped dome they have at the top floor, i was just talking to my photographer friend who managed to steal a photo of it, i was forbidden many times to take a photo of the actual building... some things are really hard to understand in this country...

Sietske said...

Thank you all for your support! It makes me feel much better, my Zen’s all back in place again. Thank you Mustafa, for spreading the word, and Nina, and Jimmy too! (Jimmy, I was vain enough to take a screen shot of your blog; LOVED it!)
H; it’s all that pent-up anger from work that poured out over this poor kid, he unleashed the genie, but it’s back in the bottle for another 6 months, I assume (when was July?). Yet another place in town I have to avoid, which is a pity, because I was on my way to buy you your Christmas present (you know where). It will have to wait, I’m afraid.

frenchy said...

take it with your phone, not with a cam.

Ekios said...

Arrrrh ... Lebanon will never change eh ? You know, considering the structure of that "thing" maybe it's a hidden rocket or something ;)

(If we were in a James Bond movie it would be probably a hidden nuclear rocket ;) )

Anyway, I had to say I laughed my ..ss off at that part ""she apologized to the guard that her mother was known for having ‘anger management issues""

My six years old daughter made the same thing once ... :P

Big moment of solitude right ? ;)

Best regards, keep fighting the idiots :)

Anonymous said...

No Christmas gifts, I am packing! I will be bringing yours when I come back... Less than a month to go.
H.

The Modern Dictator said...

When Lebanese "authorities" see a big camera, they get scared. It happens to me all the time when I try to take pictures in the city, they think you're some kind of spy. If you had taken the picture with your camera phone, then it would've been no issue at all.

Anonymous said...

Let's spread the tree: she is is now on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ysbrandgalama/5194082481/

Bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) said...

The perplexing logic! That is exactly why I can't live in Lebanon... for fear of constantly having lash outs like yours and I have had them in the past. I like how you zero in on the paradox of what is and not allowed in Lebanon. What a sad reality...

I Emilie :) said...

I so like it :)) & you're right.

Liliane said...

Siestke!!!!!!!!!!!! I need to take you out for a drink ASAP (ok i miss you so I will use that as a good excuse)

You know this is very weird, I take pictures of flashmobs and christmas trees and everything in abc every single year... that must be a new rule.. or I donno what got into the head of the poor security guy to tell you mamnou3.. weird!


Your daughter is funny lol

Fadi said...

This one was spot on! I don't get why everybody is so paranoid about photography in Lebanese shops.
I had that same exact problem so many times, and I've opened those gates of hell on the security people a couple times as well, but then you realize there is no logic, it's just rules for the sake of rules..
Just to think that here in Sweden I can go into any shop and take pretty much all the pictures I want without having anyone so much as look at me funny.. I guess it's a cultural difference of sorts..

Bilal said...

To all those saying "take the photo with your phone", the mechanism in which to take the photo is not the issue here, the issue is the stupidity that the Lebanese "fake" authorities have.
This is one of the reasons why I left Lebanon and will never come back.

marcelo said...

Ma 2asarte abadan.. and Merry Christmas to all....

Tarek said...

So when's the flashmob!! I'll bring my camera and friends with their cameras!!!

Ali said...

i think this is the core objective of forbidding taking pictures there, they want people to talk about it as an event and not as a "just a Christmas tree", this will entice those who haven't seen it yet to go to the mall, creating a buzz in a society where the word gets spread very fast! at the end of the day, the reason behind creating such a tree is to grab more customers...and apparently their strategy is working very well till now, because u r promoting it through ur blog, and all ur readers will be talking about it very soon...

Danielle said...

I was about to say, take pictures with your phone, but your blog is so incredible partly due to your beautiful photos..so I will revise what I was going to say, and say that when you are planning to take pictures when greasy, pimple faced guards are close by, just whip out the phone instead of the fancy camera. You can pretend like you're texting and not taking a picture, I do it all the time! :)

Anonymous said...

My husband took also a picture today with his mobile and the same thing happened to him.So sad.
The guy told him.Take the pic,but not in front of me,because when my boss will c me.Haram!

Marillionlb said...

I was jailed in the mid eighties for taking a picture of two kids playing in the wreck of the car used in the attempt to assassinate Camille Chamoun. The excuse was that I was a Syrian spy !

AM said...

This is one amazing story, should be facebooked :)

Anonymous said...

I've verbally abused many a security guard in my day. They don't have anything for them to do so they make up these ridiculous rules for them to enforce.

Riham said...

Wow. I can't think of one reason why this wouldn't be allowed. So glad you didn't listen to him and took that photo anyway!

Anonymous said...

Well unfortunately it is forbidden to take pictures at ABC for security reasons. Lebanon and ABC look beautiful these days, but in a not so far past there were 21 bombings in Lebanon in less than 3 years including one at ABC. So sorry if the guy was rude, this is clrearly unacceptable, but he was doing his job of preventing anybody from taking pictures at ABC in order to protect customers.
A person close to ABC

Anonymous said...

If I were in Lebanon I would've definitely went there to take photos.. and isn't it soo annoying when those guards tell you it's forbidden to take photos?? The worst are those of Solidere, especially nearby the Roman therms

Anonymous said...

I must agree with the Anonymous poster (a person close to ABC) who writes that it is necessary for the protection of the customers to stop people from taking pictures. Yes, I agree with that, these pictures could end up in the hands of Osama or Mullah Omar or mr. Al Zarqawi, and God knows what they would do if they see this bear tree. Don't you people realise that "bear" is almost the same as "beard", and that Osama might mistake this tree for a beard tree? Did you people never hear of "Osama bear Laden"? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZPGCmaIL1g&feature=related

Come on guys, stop the madness, no more pics, or they will bomb ABC!

Anonymous said...

Yes, quite right!!! This is what we should do with these bears: shoot them with guns instead of cameras!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59CBMtF__iw&feature=related

Anonymous said...

I am afraid we're running into a tricky situation here. Little did we know it is all between Osama and the bears. No wonder they don't want this tree photographed...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59CBMtF__iw&feature=related

Sietske, next time better watch out who you are messing with, at the ABC.

Phil said...

I hope they donate the bears after they take the tree down.. That would be the greenest and most socially responsible Christmas tree ever to be erected in Beirut..... ABC, do you read?

Anonymous said...

I wanted to spread the word.. but how can I share ur article on Facebook or tweet it??

Beirut Boy said...

WOW. It seems ur rly upset over this. It makes me angry too when ppl tell me I can't photograph this or that. Stupid Stupid fucked up rules.
U dont need anger management :P it's so natural to be pissed off.
nice (and funny) post.

Anonymous said...

hello, why it's not allowed to take pictures in malls? could it be cause they are afraid people are taking pictures of girls ?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it have been easier to say "Oops, sorry." than be so reactive to a simple request? Save your indignant reaction for observed acts of cruelty, or abused children. Really how important is a photo of a bear tree?

Anonymous said...

The display is part of a charity campaign "Small Bear Big Heart" to sell 2,000 bears with the proceeds going to the Lebanese autism society.

Kari said...

Great Job Sietske!

Shaney said...

I was taking photos inside Brussel Zuid Station a few years ago and I got approached by a shouting security guard (Belgian) saying that I cannot do that - and she had to check my digicam to see if I have the photos deleted!!! :o :o

Gab Ferneiné said...

looks like a shawarma stick with meat