Pipe It Down, Son!
This could easily be a typical rant about Cairo’s noise pollution, but it’s not as the title suggests.
Several weeks ago, during a random retail therapy session, I was in an area that I call beggars’ central in Mohandiseen. You’d think that being a Southeast Londoner I’d be ready with my super-refusal mechanism, but the beggars that thrusted their grime-ladled hands under my nose were a seriously bad upgrade from the ones in London.
After much dodging, eye-cutting and teeth-kissing amongst the mutters of ‘just leave me alone!’, I managed to escape from two very persistent boys who looked no older than 12, at most; but since Egyptians generally look older than they are, they could easily have been only 10 years old.
I thought I’d gotten rid of them until I found them at a kiosk I visited 5 minutes later, only this time, one of them had something long and white that bobbed up and down between his lips as he spoke to his companion.
At first, what it was didn’t quite register in my head – I wanted to avoid them after all! – but I did a double-take when my brain pinged with recognition. Yes, it was what you think; the boy was smoking! It’s at this point that I could add words like frigging, bloody, blinking and even profanities that stem from sheer disbelief. Can you believe it? No? Neither could I!
After my slight emotional episode of rage, I calmed down and thought this was an isolated case and my blood pressure returned to normal until this afternoon on the way to work.
Let me say that I’ve walked the same route to the metro station for the last 6 weeks and there are many street sellers dotted along the path leading to it, including the shoe-shiner and his son who sit hunched over the latest shoe placed between their legs as their hands whiz back and forth, buffing shoes to a reflection-worthy shine. But in the 6 weeks that I’ve seen them, I’ve never once seen the little boy (who again, looks like he might be about 10 years old) smoking except for today, and he did so while sitting right next to his father!
I still can’t gather my thoughts coherently on the matter, but my mind can’t be blamed for scolding the boy’s father for allowing his son to pipe away his youth. It’s actually quite sickening to think what his lungs look like at such an immature stage of his life when he is still growing.
If I could say anything to the boy, anything at all, I’d say, “Pipe it down, son; put the blinking pipe down!”
– The Londoner