I'm My Neighbor's Secretary
My 50-something-year-old Bedouin neighbor is illiterate, but her sons and daughters insist that she try to live "modernly"; they have bought her a cell phone and TV with satellite. Unfortunately, she has little idea how this new technology works.
When I went to visit her one day, she explained to me the difficulties of being unable to read.
Bedouin Lady: "I want to watch the news."
I take this as a statement, so don't offer a response.
Bedouin Lady: "Do you want to watch the news? I'm tired of watching the same channel for 3 days."
Me: "Do you have the news channel?"
Bedouin Lady: "Shouldn't I?"
Me: "I guess."
We continue to watch the current channel, a documentary about camels crossing the desert, in silence. 10 minutes later, she makes the same request.
Bdouin Lady: "I want to watch the news."
Me: "OK. I don't care what we watch."
Bedouin Lady: "I don't know where it is."
"No. The news."
Silence for 2 minutes.
Me: "I don't understand."
Bedouin Lady, in an impatient tone: "I can't read the channel listings. Can't you put it on the news?"
I quickly grab the remote and change to Al Jazeera, reprimanding myself for having assumed that she was just too lazy to do it herself. It's simply that she can't read the channel names on the screen to identify which channels are which.
Another conversation with the same lady:
Bedouin Lady: "Mind-ay, can you read Arabic?"
"Someone called me before you came."
"Let me see your phone."
I scroll down to missed calls on her phone, and read that the last person who called her was Om Ahmed, her sister.
"Your sister called."
"No. Your other sister, Om Ahmed."
"I don't know."
"Was it important?"
"I don't know. All it says is the name. Does your phone have a way to leave messages?"
Bedouin Lady: "Give me Om Ahmed's number."
Me: "It's in your phone. I don't have your sister's number."
"I don't know which one is hers. Go down to her number and then hit call and then I'll ask her what she wants."
I realize that life must be pretty frustrating with a cell phone that lists contacts by name, which doesn't help for those who can't read.