Lost in Translation

Container in Doha

Container in Doha


Just as the brown and peach floral sofa that came with the house was beginning to grow on me, I got the news that our container was arriving from Indonesia.

Browned off living in an empty shell of a house and sleeping on a bed where the mattress is bigger that the divan, thus giving the illusion of extra bed-space for the seconds before you roll off, I couldn’t wait for the 40ft of metal, containing my bed, my guitar, the spaghetti strainer and my tweezers to arrive at the door.

It was set to arrive at 9.30 so I decided to hire a maid for the day to give me a hand, because here in Qatar ordering a maid is more accessible than ordering a pizza to your door in Ireland or a hooker in Jakarta. I rang Qatar Maid Service and placed my order, 1 maid, 1 vacuum cleaner, 4 hours. Waif-like Janice arrived an hour later with the hoover stuffed into a small plastic bag and she set to work deftly making her way through the house, busy as bee and quiet as a mouse.

Meanwhile there were 6 burly men, well, as burly as Filipinos can be, unloading the container, one hundred and forty seven boxes later, we began unpacking the boxes, the first step in turning the ware-house in a home-house. I carefully unwrapped item by item, marvelling at the sheer volume of useless tat I had acquired over the past four years.   A waffle maker (only useful if you ever used it), a four foot high box of plastic food containers (a must in Jakarta, to keep the rats out of your cupboards), 8 mini clothes hangers and more inflatable pool toys than a mini market in Tenerife, a swing ball with no bats, a table soccer game with no ball, it was all there.   Of course amidst the trash were some valuables, a little envelope of my son’s first curl, family photos and my good hairdryer.

Business was brisk, the men were busy lifting, shifting and re-assembling, beds, bookcases and trampolines. The maid was working fluidly through the chaos and I was ticking off the boxes, noting to the team leader that four large ceramic pots were broken in pieces, the leg of the dining room table was chipped and my Rolex was too tight. (last bit, a joke).   By evening, all the useless tat had found new corners to rest in, until the next upheaval. Everything else settled into the house, transforming it into a home.

When I received a call the next day, a survey call from the company the next day, I took time to clearly outline the strengths and failing of the service. I said, overall the work was good and carried out efficiently despite that the time allotted wasn’t long enough, the pressure of which showed at times, particularly when making the beds. I said, that there were four large ceramic pots broken in pieces and that while I understood wear and tear, I thought the handling of these was evidently particularly rough. I also said that the Dining table was deeply scored another sign of rough handling. I finished up by saying that while I would use the service again, next time I would like if there was more time allotted in order to complete the whole house with a little more care and less breakages.

There was silence on the other end of the phone. I discreetly coughed and said hello to encourage a response from the other end of the line. More silence and then in a staccato voice, ‘Ma’am, I am shock, I cannot believe all this, before we have no problem, you say, breakages?, rough handling?’

Maybe I was a little severe, so I backed up my claims, mentioning how I understood the volume of the work involved and the time pressure but I have photographs to prove the damage. ‘ma’am I so sorry, I am shock that Janice make such damage’, the penny dropped, it was Qatar Maid Service not Santa Fe Shipping. I apologised, we laughed, she said, ‘so ma’am, what about Janice?’, I replied, ‘is she free every Sunday?’


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