So the call to Magrib prayer just sounded at 6.39pm and I whipped my Sigg bottle out from under the desk and took a giant swig of water. Day 1 of Ramadan - the hard part - was over. And by hard part, I do not mean hard for me. I mean for all the Muslims who didn't eat a bite or drink a drop of water all day.
I really enjoyed my water, and that was only because I didn't have to go to a private room to drink it. I can only imagine how much fun everyone is having at all those iftar tents around town right now.
I would have to say after a rough start, today went rather smoothly. By rough start, I mean to say I could not get a ride to work. Not for love or money. Well, in the end, money and some gestured begging did the trick. Apparently most of the cab drivers, fasting as their religion dictates, head home by midday for a nap. One would get drowsy, I imagine, not drinking or eating since dawn. That would explain all the empty cabs driving past. I waited for about a half-hour with two school children, a brother and sister who could not have been more than 8 and 5. I tried to negotiate with them, so that when a cab did come, we could get in it together. But the older brother wouldn't have it, and when after 30 minutes he finally grew exasperated and grabbed his sister's hand, making off down the road, I knew merely standing and waiting was futile.
So I started walking, in heels, down the hot road. Cabs whipped past. None of the buses carrying workers took pity, like yesterday, though I still held out hope. I grew thirsty, but did not withdraw my water bottle for fear of being arrested. Then I finally begged a driver on his way home for a ride and arrived at work, 45 minutes late.
A lot had gone on in my absence. The idea of a combined smoking/eating room – which also houses one of the designers working on the launch of this fall's Saturday's paper – had not gone down well with the non-smokers. So the industrial ashtray, the one with the sand and all the cigarette butts sticking out of it, which was just a few feet from the designer's desk, thank goodness he was a smoker, was moved to the multimedia room. I went in there for a chat several hours ago and emerged smelling as though I had smoked an entire pack in a car with the windows up.
There had already been a series of e-mails about the tea boys. (I had been surprised to see Ismail pop into the newly smoke-free lunch room and ask if I wanted a coffee) They were fasting for Ramadan, some said. It would be rude to ask them to make you a drink. Ismail had looked quite cheerful to me, and decidedly a go-getter in his job just like every other day. Then more e-mails came, saying that the tea boys couldn't afford to take the day off even though they were fasting, and so if you did order from them, you should tip them heavily.
Then I went to eat some lunch, but wasn't a big fan of the conversation. A few co-workers were talking about how they had tried to fast for a couple of hours, but didn't feel well, so they ate and drank something. What, I have to ask, is the point?
My impression of the entire thing, so far, is that like almost everything else, things are scary when they are unknown. Then, when you are confronted with them, they are just not that bad. As one editor commented, this whole lunchroom-we-have-to-use idea forces us to mingle with those we do not know. Never easy; never a bad thing either.