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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Smelly business

Smelly business

"Enough is enough!", said Bassam while he closed the window. He walked over to the wall and started the air conditioner. It was one of those days: 40 degrees Celsius outside, humidity over 80% and the hot wind bringing us the sour smell of the petrochemical industries near Haifa bay. It was really smelly, which explains Bassam's actions.

"I am going to call the municipality!", said my friend determined. He walked over to the phone and called 106, the municipal service center. While listen to the music until his call was answered, he quickly grabbed three cookies and ate them quickly, without losing even one crumb. Suddenly he looked at me and pressed the loudspeaker button on the phone, so I could listen in. suddenly a lady answered.

"Municipality", said the lady.

"Good Morning", said Bassam, surprisingly polite.

"Good morning to you too, Sir."

"Look, it really smells here…."

"Where does it smell?"


"Where, outside?"

"Outside my house."

"And where is your house?"

"Well, here in Haifa."

"And you address is?"

Bassam gave her the address.

"And what does it smell like?"

"Sour. Like petrol."

"Really now. One moment please."

Again music. After a few minutes she came back to us.

"I'll connect you with the ministry of environment."

Again music. We looked at each other. The ministry! Not bad at all!

"Ministry!", said an important-sounding person on the other side of the line.

"Hey good morning to you! We called the municipality because of the smell outside.", said Bassam quickly.

"Yes, so I heard. Are you asthmatic?"

"Me? Not at al."

"Are you sensitive to smells?"

"If I am…what are you talking about???"

"Sir, just answer the question with a yes or no, it will go much faster this way."

Bassam shrugged. "No."

"So why are you calling?"

"Because it smell terrible outside."

"Bu you just said that you are not sensitive to smells."

"No..I said….excuse me, where is this conversation leading to?"

"Sir, that's not what you just said."

"No, but I mean…."

"Sir, you just claimed it smells outside?"


"And you are outside."

"No, we are inside."

"And it still smells?"

"Yes!" Bassam was turning read and I started to enjoy this.



"But you are inside?"

"I just said so!"

"And your windows are open or closed?"

"Sir, what are you complaining about? The smell is supposedly outside, you are inside, with the windows closed and you claim not to be sensitive to smells!"

Bassam looked with big eyes at the phone and then at me. I shrugged. This was his problem and not mine and I was enjoying this.

"Sir I am telling you there is a terrible smell outside!"

"Yes, well, I cannot solve that and you are inside with the windows closed."

"And what about the smell outside?"

"I would advise you to stay inside."

"That's a big help, thank you!"

"I hope so. Satisfied citizens are our main goal, you know."

"But I am not satisfied!! And it stinks outside!!"

"So what do you want me to do about it? Come over and blow it away?"

Bassam's eyes went wide open. His face went purple.

"The gull of you public servants!!"

"You think so?"

"I demand to speak to your superior! Immediately!"

"Well I am the superior. When is your wife coming home?"

"What on earth has my wife to do with this?"

"Well, do you think she will notice the smell?"

"What..what….", Bassam was dumbfounded.

"I think she must be used to the smell, no? I mean, she is married to you for 27 years, right?"

Basam gave me an incredible look. I looked at the ceiling.

"What…who…who is this?"

"Bassam, you fool! It is me, you cousin Mussa! Did you forget I work at the ministry? The moment I heard it was you, I asked to handle the call myself, you donkey!"

Bassam hit himself on the forehead.

A while later we were outside, in the street. The smell was still there.

"What a smell.", said Bassam. "What can we do about it?"

"Take a shower!", said a passerby while lifting his nose.

©Simon Soesan

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