I am still replaying this occurrence in my mind and wondering exactly what happened, so perhaps it is best to get some feedback from you.
I arrived in Bahrain around 10pm and after a lengthy wait to obtain a visa (a total ripoff at $45 for an overnight transit visa) followed by a failed attempt to summon the shuttle from my hotel, I stepped out to the taxi rank.
A short Bahraini man in traditional garb named Muhammad stepped out of his car and with a grin came running up to me and helped place my bags in his trunk.
I sat down in the front passenger seat and we took off. He seemed very familiar with the hotel, named the Imperial Suites, but wanted to call it anyway to confirm he was driving to the correct place. Fine.
Then our conversation took a turn for the weird.
MUHAMMAD: What is your name? You’re very handsome person.
MUHAMMAD: Oh! Beautiful name.
ME: What is your name?
ME: You were born here?
MUHAMMAD: Yes. Are you married?
MUHAMMAD: Oh, where is your wife? How many kids you have?
ME: We have only been married for six months. No kids yet. Are you married? How many children?
MUHAMMAD [giggling and waving his hand]: No, no marriage for me.
ME: Do you want marriage or kids?
MUHAMMAD: No, more fun without it.
ME: Being single does have its advantages.
MUHAMMAD: How long you stay here?
ME: Just till tomorrow afternoon.
MUHAMMAD: Then where you go?
MUHAMMAD: Oh, I wish you stay longer.
* * *
We arrived at the hotel and the meter read 7.235 Dinar (about $19). I handed him 8 dinars and with a frown on his face he remarked:
MUHAMMAD: This not enough. Meter wrong.
ME: What do you mean?
MUHAMMAD: You my first customer tonight. I wait since 5:30 at airport for passenger.
ME: Well, this is all the money I have.
MUHAMMAD: Oh, no problem my friend. I just want make you happy. No problem.
A bellman arrived to take my bags in but Muhammad shooed him away.
MUHAMMAD: I take your bags in for you.
ME: The hotel can do it. Thank you, though.
MUHAMMAD: No, no I do it.
Inside Muhammad followed me to the front desk and stood silently with a big crap-eating grin spread across his face.
After I received my room key, he said…
MUHAMMAD: I come upstairs with you?
[I don’t think his English was good enough for that double entendre to be deliberate…]
ME: No thanks, I am fine.
MUHAMMAD: I come upstairs with you.
MUHAMMAD: Please, I here for you.
ME: No thanks. Goodnight.
MUHAMMAD: Ok, goodnight.
And with that, I stepped into the elevator and it was the last I saw of Muhammad.
So dear readers, was this just a harmless 45-year old taxi driver trying to be hospitable in welcoming me to Manama, Bahrain or was it something…more?
This was not my Muhammad.