Religious, Good-Hearted, and just a little bit Vain

as I finish out my last week of this work trip, I’m a little too sequestered in the office for much culturtwining of my own. So in the meantime, please enjoy an oldie but goodie from days yore…

Pharmacist, Jordan, 28 September 2008

I went by the local pharmacy today to pick up some Ibuprophen. I get some strange joy out of buying extra-extra-extra strength Ibuprophen tablets in small quantities from local pharmacists, so I walked to the store with some degree of anticipation.

But when I got to the door, I stopped short the moment I placed my hand on the handle. For through the glass storefront, I saw the pharmacist was praying. I could see his empty shoes peeking out from the edge of the counter, and a middle-aged man positioned right behind the counter. He stood facing the wall to the left, then he kneeled, then he bowed, then he stood again and repeated the rituals of prayer again, then again. He was somewhat casually dressed: the abandoned shoes were TiVos, and he wore khaki trousers with a colored button-down shirt.

I don’t know if I got there right after he started, or if this was a long prayer, or if I was just impatient to get my Ibuprophen, but it seemed to me his prayer went on for a long time. Not to mention that this wasn’t a normal prayer time of the day. But as I stood there with my hand on the doorhandle, I felt awkward, as if I was observing a special spiritual moment. His motions were slow and deliberate, and he lingered in the more pensive positions. It made me want to hide around the corner so as not to distract him in any way.

He definitely noticed my presence at some point during his prayer because as soon as he was done, he stood up and waved me in with a broad sweep of his arm. “Ahlan wa Sahlan, Ahlan wa Sahlan. Welcome,” he grinned. I think as he said this he folded up his rug and slipped his shoes on, but he was so fast it was hard to catch his exact motions.

He got my Ibuprophen quickly enough. It was grossly overpriced, which dampered the experience a bit for me, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue against his sincerity and enthusiasm for the sake of a mere few pennies a pill. So I took the Ibuprophen and even decided to engage his goodwill on another request: Dead Sea mud mask.

The smile faded as he looked through his cosmetic collection. He apologised profusely and asked me if I wanted him to make me some. Did he really mean to make me real Jordanian Dead Sea mud? Oh, how cool! I replied, “Maybe later.” And he said, “Yes, yes. After the Eid.” Eid is the end of Ramadan holiday, this week! I thanked him and headed out, but as I was opening the door, he called after me, “You’re very welcome! Remember, after the Eid I will make you some Dead Sea Mud!”

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