Over the last few weeks, Morocco has been trying my patience, and quite frankly, getting on my last nerve already. So after what could only be called as the day from hell, I decided to high tail it out of Fes one day earlier and head down the coast to Essaouira for some much needed R&R. My Moroccan adventure needed redeeming and I didn’t think it was possible to accomplish that in Fes. The Fassis have the best food in the country, but good lord, the people were just a pain and a half!
At exactly five the next morning, I crept out of my hostel which is by the Bab Jdid gates. The night guard couldn’t even be bothered to move his moped that was blocking the front door, so forget about him helping me schlep my massive bag down three flights of slippery stone stairs. I hoisted my bag up my back and tried to figure my way out of the confusing labyrinth of alleys and passageways before making it out to the main road fifteen minutes later. I stood by the plaza for a good twenty minutes waiting patiently for a cab to appear. The hostel owner promised me the night before that it was going to be “super” easy to get a cab by the gates even at that hour. Yeah right!
Not wanting to miss my bus to the coast, I picked up my bag again and started walking towards the bus station, a mere five miles away on the other side of town. As I was walking by the side of the highway, I kept flagging and waving my arms at every single cab that passed by me. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, a new-ish cab stopped and agreed to take me to the bus station in Ville Nouvelle. I told him I was running late and to step on it. He not only decided to take his sweet ass time driving, but also decided to pick up other passengers along the way. At this point, I was already very familiar with the Moroccans’ maddening habit of sharing cabs, but that didn’t stop me from trying to dissuade the driver from picking up more fares. He said business is slow and he needs to pick up as much fare as he can. When he saw me hyperventilating and already foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog in the backseat, he quickly promised to drop me off first.
Ten minutes later, we pulled up outside the bus station, I stomped out of the cab, handed him a twenty dirham note over the window and left, never turning back for a second even after he called out for me. He called a little louder and I continued to walk away and ignore him. A couple of seconds later, I heard him get out of the cab. I started walking faster, and so did he. Shit! At this point, I started to run, but he ran as well. This is getting ridiculous!
Once inside the bus station, he managed to catch up with me and grabbed my shoulder. At this point of the trip, I was very exhausted, cranky, mean, tired of being hit up for baksheesh all the time, and I simply stopped caring already. I turned around and started yelling at the man in a mixture of French, Arabic, English, Spanish, and even Turkish. Why? I have no idea. I was in the throes of a major bitch fit!
“No, I will not pay you more. No, I will not give you baksheesh! Twenty dirhams is the correct fare to terminal!”, I yelled at him. What followed next was just a continuous string of expletives and curses. I did not hold back. I had no shame. Hell, I had lost my mind back then.
“That’s all the money I have left!” I yelled at him again. The man calmly looks at me while I’m screaming at him; arms waving, hair sticking out all over the place, the veins on my temple visibly throbbing; and slowly holds out a ten dirham note.
“You give too much money,” he says. “Only ten dirhams to Ville Nouvelle.”
The man was running after me to give me back my change. He gently took my hand, placed the ten dirham note in it, and closed my fist around it. He then held my right hand with both of his, and wished me luck.
“Bit tawfiq,” he says. “Allah yusallmak.” He turns around and starts walking back outside to his cab, to his life, and away from the batshit crazy woman who just verbally abused him for no reason.
As I stood there, an overwhelming sense of shame and horror washed down on me. I have become the very same person I stood against. I have become that person who treats others badly just because she can. I have become that privileged tourist who looked down on the locals. I had become a monster. I had become my worst nightmare. I had allowed the few bad experiences I’ve had in the country to overrule my judgment, and my sense of what’s right and wrong. Let’s face it, I’ve turned into an insufferable brat, a brat who just attacked an honest and decent man doing the right thing. I have never been more ashamed of myself.
To this day, I carry that shame with me where ever I go. It reminds, in a not so gentle way, that people are inherently good, and unless proven otherwise and even so, I best treat everybody with nothing but the utmost respect and kindness. Not because I have to or I’m told to, but because it is the right thing to do, and it is the only way to treat others.