Jack Black’s Low Point in Egypt

Favourite Celebrity Quote no. 611 - Jack BlackI was throwing rocks into an empty paint can in the middle of a dried out field. The sun was baking everything, including me and my pile of rocks, which were becoming hotter by the second and therefore more difficult to curve. Mark was huddling under the seventeen inches of shade being provided by the oddly shaped ferry building. In the window of the building there was a handwritten note in Arabic, which gave us indecipherable bad news from right to left. A drawn clock with the hands on the 3 was more succinct.

Right now, both the little and the big hands were on the 1 and we were baking in the sun waiting for ferry officials that we needed to see today and who would not return for at least two hours. There was no place to go in the meantime, so we hid under the brims of our hats and threw rocks. This was our low point and it had come as a result of bad decisions.

We had one rule in Egypt: No being outside in the afternoon hours.

It was late July. Mornings we spent swimming in the Red Sea and avoiding sharks that ended up being underwater cable pipes. The late mornings we spent lounging in the first air-conditioned room we had seen since arriving in the Middle East. There were breakfasts of highly questionable meats with unrecognizable, colorful rectangles of food that were the only things capable of quelling the rampant diarrhea that exploded from one’s body the moment he lit upon, stepped upon or landed upon the country of Egypt. Evenings were spent sweating and walking or drinking a beer before it became soup.

But, without fail, every afternoon at the peak of the unimaginable and dangerous heat, we were walking though the desert on an errand or journey under a sun which baked us in punishment.

Today was no different. Making the low point lower was the frustration that there had been a low point. We were unable to deflect it and we allowed disappointment and aggravation get to us until there was a low point. It proved that to some degree we were typical American travelers.  

Traveling in Egypt gave many opportunities for low points and it was astounding that we’d avoided it for as long as we did. There had been long, steaming bus rides through the desert as Arabic detective shows blared at us at a volume that made death preferable. There had been hour-long walks in heat that had only been described by Dante and thick mustached soldiers pointing machine guns at us in back alleys.

And the whole time we grinned, bore it, sweated, shat four times a day, paid Baksheesh to most people, wore turbans, and avoided the American stereotype.

And now I was throwing rocks into a paint can.

The good thing about a low point is that when it ends you can only go up. The ferry man came and looked out the window at us sweating. He gave us tissues to mop off our brows and smiled at us in the massive, warm and genuine smile offered by all the Egyptians we’d met (except the soldier). We bought our tickets from him and did not complain. We said our hellos and goodbyes, our thank yous and your welcomes in basic Arabic, just as we’d learned on the bus ride. And then we walked back to the hotel.

The low point dwindled behind us as we looked forward to the pool at the hotel. We had only allowed our American sides to break through for a moment, and then it was back to experienced traveler mode. We could forgive ourselves for that, surely. We got back to the hotel, immediately changed into bathing suits and went to the pool, in the middle of which resided a bar. We swam out to it and bought two Luxor beers. We sat on the marble and I dipped under the warm water. Mark lounged in the sun, which was more bearable with alcohol and a swimming pool.

I came out of the water and heard a voice.

“Could you throw me?”

I looked down to see a tiny girl, blonde haired and blue-eyed, kicking in the water, her water wings keeping her afloat.

“Sorry?” I said.

“Could you toss me?” She said, her miniature British accent lilting across the water.

“Sure.” I sat her on my palm and chucked her across the water.

This was a mistake.

Soon I was surrounded by six British children cutting water like little tadpoles, each beckoning a catapult into the water. The minute I threw one, another would position themselves for a throw and Mark took delight in my discomfort as they soon tired me out.

“Can we take a break?”

“Nooo,” they said in unison, as though they’d practiced.

I told them the story about the low point, which they laughed at. Aha, I sensed an out. I told them other stories as it allowed me to relax into the water and not throw a British subject. Their mothers scurried into the water and tread water near me too.

“Who is this, girls?”

“It’s a Yank, Mum and he’s got the funniest stories.”

Mark began laughing and ordered another two beers, both of which he drank. I had been relegated back to Americana status and shivered in mild frustration. I told one more story, they sat around me as I’d always imagined a school of fish to do when I was a kid.

I told the story about the soldier and his machine gun. One of the little girls swam up and put her hand on my arm. “I’m glad he didn’t shoot you, Yank, cause I’ve never met anyone like you before in my life. You’re like that Jack Black on the telly.”

Mark went under water in a fit of hysterical laughter and though I was now fully consigned to American status again, my low point had ended.

But that’s when the catapult reopened.      

  1. #1 by PJ on April 15, 2013 - 8:17 pm

    That’s a great story, I like the part where you were being baked in an oven and then forced to cater to little Britlings.

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