Wednesday, November 25, 2015


The first gentleman I want to talk about has already appeared in two of my blogs - this is his third appearance. Someone mentioned that with the amount of raw material available to me, I should have registered for my psychology honors this year. I can’t argue with that reasoning.

Whilst working at our most recent project, this gentleman became friendly with a “union worker” type teacher and the two of them started exhibiting increasingly bizarre and paranoid behavior. They became convinced that "we" were conspiring against "them" and then they started to regularly take sick days. This, of course, placed an extra load on the rest of us. The company requires a doctor’s note for sick days, but with the right contacts, getting a sick-note is not a problem, although getting the correct information on the sick note can be problematic.This worthy would sometimes call in sick with, for example,  a closed chest and then bring a sick note for gastro or earache. He once sent a photo of himself using a nebulizer to show how deathly ill he was, obviously forgetting that he had already sent that exact photo as evidence some months earlier. On one occasion I went to his class to tell the students that their teacher was off sick only for them to tell me that he had already told them the previous week that he would be sick that day. When another of my colleagues asked him to provide us with a schedule of his planned sick days for the rest of the year so that we could plan accordingly, he became huffy and left the room.

He is also particularly unwilling to help his colleagues, his stock response when asked for assistance being: but when will I eat my sandwiches? This eventually became a standing joke amongst the rest of us, and whenever someone asks for help we all chorus: but when will I eat my sandwiches. He also has the distasteful habit of over-sharing his personal life.

Things came to a head on one of his monthly sick days when one of the other teachers suffered a stroke  at work. He was taken to the hospital, accompanied by a colleague. This left two of us to teach three classes. My colleague had no option but to phone the malingerer and tell him to get his ass to his classroom pronto. He arrived an hour later, disheveled, apprehensive and coughing weakly whenever he remembered.

Realizing that we could no longer ignore the situation, my friend awaited an opportunity and called him aside one day. He attempted to have a man-to-man with him; he informed him that he was ruining his reputation, that people were speaking about him, including management and members of the other teams, who sometimes referred to us a "cowboy outfit" because of the unprofessional behavior. Even some students had made comments about him. Rather than being grateful for the heads-up, he went storming down the corridor towards the supervisor’s office, effing and blinding all the way and nearly bowling over the new CEO who was being shown around the premises by the outgoing CEO. Once in the office he continued blustering loudly and profanely while both the old and the new CEO listened interestedly from outside the office. I took the opportunity to point out to 
him that he already had a dire reputation and that he needed to start with some damage control. Again, no gratitude was in evidence - the messenger (me) was shot on the spot. His last word (to us) on the subject was that “those two old c***s must never talk to me again” (I have noted previously that he lacks conflict-resolution skills, being limited to threats or sulking).

It so happened that I had a meeting with our CEO a few weeks after these events and in our discussions I requested that, if possible, I not work with this character in the future. When asked my reasons I simply said that I found it difficult to work with him. This obviously piqued his curiosity and he instructed our supervisor to produce a full report on the man’s performance. The report ran to several pages and included items such as deserting an exam he was invigilating to go search for his relief, arriving late and leaving early, parking in prohibited parking areas, ignoring the dress code, inappropriate relationships with students, excessive use of his cell-phone during teaching time, being uncooperative, not being a team player and, of course, malingering.

This led initially to him receiving a hefty salary deduction, which probably had the effect of transmuting some of
his malingering days to unpaid leave. Following this were several meetings with the CEO, the outcome being that it was decided that, in the circumstances, a parting of the ways would be for the best. In short – he was sacked for exactly what we had tried to warn him about and for which he had cursed us. From his actions and comments since then he still can't believe that he has done anything deserving of sanction. He sees himself as a victim of malice and unfairness and feels bitter that no one else can see what is so clear to him.

Eventually he was able to convince management to give him a final chance. He was transferred out of  Riyadh and consequently he found it necessary to fly home to Riyadh every weekend to take care of personal issues. Apparently still blithely unaware of the thinness of the ice upon which he blunders and showing absolutely no gratitude that he  still has a job, he has been demanding to be transferred back to Riyadh and for the company to reimburse him his weekly air fares.  The fact that the company has been magnanimously giving him a three day weekend every week is not sufficient for him, he sees it as no more than his due and he is happy to now make financial demands on the company. He has also now added yet another staff member (in HR) to the list of people to whom he refuses to speak, bringing the total up to seven or eight. We continue to follow his antics with morbid interest…


You know the archetypal American that everyone dislikes – loud, ill-informed on anything that does not touch him personally, opinionated, know-it-all and generally annoying?  (Just to be clear, most Americans I know are not like this). Well, this archetype has  joined our happy team. In his first week here he was instructing our bus-driver how to drive, how fast to drive and which route was best – never mind that the company has been driving this route for around four years.

Probably his favorite phrase is “But it’s not in my contract!” a refrain which one can hear him plaintively repeating loudly several times every week. Rather than opting for professional dress for work like all the other teachers, he opts for safari suits and sneakers. Remember those from the seventies? When the weather turned cold we all wondered if he would be wearing two safari suits to keep warm. At home time he changes into mountaineering garb, wandering through the hallowed halls with backpack and shorts. He reminds us of Peter from the TV series “Heidi”, or a postman who has lost his bicycle. When told that professional dress would be more appropriate for teaching in an institution of higher learning, his response is “but it’s not in my contract”.

Company policy is that if you want to vacation outside the country in your first year, you need to either leave one month’s salary behind or get someone to sign surety for you. This is to cover the company in the event that you don’t return. When advised of this restriction when he wanted to arrange a trip to Egypt, one could hear him plaintively crying in the corridors “but that isn’t in my contract”. This continued for several weeks with other teachers slamming their office doors several times a day to try to deaden the irritating whining. When he wanted to open a bank account he lambasted our poor HR man, demanding to know the location of the bank, how to open an account, banking hours, how he was to get to the bank and
which branch he was supposed to go to. When told that our bank was Al-Rajhi bank he said, “What? The Russian Bank?” to the great amusement of all within earshot. Our HR stalwart, who has very little English with which to defend himself against this sort of harassment, tried to explain to him that teachers were expected to be able to find their own way around and sort out their own affairs and generally be independent adults, but he was having none of it: “it’s not in my contract” he bleated. Our HR man also had to try to explain that it is not in his contract to arrange transport for teachers to get to the bank and nor is it in his contract that he perform banking-type duties like arranging credit-cards for teachers.

He also quite obviously did no research on Saudi Arabia or its customs or religion before he arrived here. He first

tried to organize a fancy-dress party for his "kids" and then he was all gung-ho to arrange a Halloween party. Said “kids” are young adults and university students and not really into fancy-dress. Anyone who knows anything about KSA would also know that anyone promoting anything occult or resembling witchcraft is likely to suffer judicial decapitation. He has also embarrassed Muslim teachers (he’s too gauche to embarrass himself) by loudly (he does everything loudly) enquiring about their wives and daughters. He asked one teacher if he had any brothers, to which the teacher replied that he had only one who had died some years previously. “Oh! Do you have any sisters that haven’t died”, he enquired. The whole bus looked fixedly out the windows, at the ceiling, at the floor or plugged in their headphones and pretended not to hear. He is truly the most oblivious person I have ever met.

Occasionally we have presentations in the university auditorium, and on these occasions snacks are provided. Protocol dictates that one partake of only one or two pastries, but since that was not specified in his contract he feels entitled to grab a whole plate for himself and munch away during the presentation. Further, if there are left-overs at the end of the event, he converts the left-overs  into take-aways and proudly struts off with the spoils.

Perhaps his most mind-boggling faux-pas happened just a couple of days ago. He was placed on a sub-project where he travels on the same bus as some female teachers. This had a marked effect on his hormones and a day later he asked our supervisor if he could be permanently assigned to the project and would the supervisor please arrange a love-nest for him and one of the ladies! The supervisor politely declined the opportunity to branch into new and previously unconsidered fields. The teacher has also had to be requested to stop trying to sneak into the ladies section while he is supposed to be teaching his (male) classes. As I mentioned previously, he has done absolutely no research on his host country or else has zero respect for their laws. Meanwhile he unabashedly continues evangelizing to anyone who is courteous enough to listen to him.

Perhaps it is karma or poetic justice that these two gems ended up as flatmates. Since they both show narcissistic tendencies, bets were taken as to how long it would be before they had a meltdown. As it turned out, the implosion came in just over one month, about two weeks later that we had expected. Again, we all watch developments with morbid interest...

Despite having edited out numerous other mind-numbing anecdotes, this blog entry is still longer than I anticipated. I hope I have not rambled on for too long.