“This girl is hmara, and I will not waste my time training someone as stupid as she is.”–’Hmara’ is the Arabic word for ‘moron’, and, yes, it’s a curse word.
After five years of being commended by C-level executives and senior managers at multinational corporations, some caveman at a semi-regional company run by an unskilled management announced the day he met me that I was a moron.
In 2016, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announced that they have developed a way to turn sewage into biocrude oil, which basically means they figured how to turn poop into power.
I, too, have done that.
September 10th, 2014. I was escorted by a silent woman through a series of empty door frames with doorknobs that worked ridiculously well, passing by fluorescent-lit cubicles with broken panels and grumpy employees. I asked what her name was and she snapped, “Nour”.
I watched Nour as she walked in front of me. She had long pitch-black hair which, apparently, only got washed on special occasions, and that day was not one of them. Her skin was grayish because she had a brownish skin tone and insisted on wearing rice flour instead of foundation.
She stopped and turned to me. I jumped. I though she had two black spiders on both eyelids, but it was just her layered mascara and eyeliner, nothing harmful.
“This is where you’ll sit,” she said from between fluorescent teeth and beige lips.
I followed her into a conference room with cracked walls and a large wooden table that survived the 1941 Battle of Damascus during WWII. In fact, the whole office did survive a huge explosion that took place in 2013.
At a separate desk, a baboon-looking man sat arrogantly at a rather small desk as if he were King Kong on the Empire State Building. His face was covered with a black beard and a thick line of hair connecting his two ears and passing through his forehead–yes, that was one majestic eyebrow.
“Ayham, this is the new girl,” Nour said to the baboon-looking guy before she strolled outside.
He studied me from headscarf to shoes with condescending eyes then said as he stared at his laptop’s screen, “You sit at that table and wait until I send you some work by email. That’s your laptop.”
Like a good girl, I turned the laptop on. And that laptop deserved every ounce of respect. It was a war veteran and a former samurai. It survived a bombing and perhaps seven to eight hard falls, around eight buttons were missing and its screen seemed to have been violently stabbed with various sharp objects. It was slow and froze at least four times every 20 minutes, but it actually worked!
Anyways, Ayham sent me two links to extremely short Arabic news pieces and asked me to edit them. I read the pieces several times but could not understand a word.
An hour passed and Ayham whined, “What’s taking you so long?”
“I’m working,” I replied.
An hour later, Ayham whined again, “All I gave you were six easy lines!”
“I told Mohammed (the managing editor) when he interviewed me that my Arabic was poor,” I replied, “which is why I wanted to get trained here.”
“Aren’t you Syrian?”
“Of course I am.”
“Then how come your Arabic is poor?”
Question of the year! As if Syrian people were all descendants of Sibawayh! You know the Arabic we write is nothing like the one we speak, and I met many Syrians whose Arabic writing skills were extremely poor even though they went to Syrian schools.
“I’m new in Damascus and I went to English-speaking schools my whole life,” I explained.
He went back to whatever business he had on his laptop.
I then gave up trying. “You can come take a look at what I’ve done if you want,” I told him before I gave him my seat and tried to crack a couple of jokes as he read through my work, but maybe he had Botox all over his face his lips did not twitch.
He stared blankly at the screen, grunted, got up and marched outside the conference room and into the managing editor’s office.
“This girl is a moron, and I will not waste my time training someone as stupid as she is,” I heard Ayham yell.
I do not know where he disappeared after that day, but I learned later that he was famous for lacking the skills and the talent required to do his job. I also learned a couple of years later that the company was keen on hiring anyone who lacked brains, skills, emotional intelligence and good ethics. The top managers were insecure, so they hired incompetent managers, and for their part, those managers hired subordinates who were pretty dumb.
I was hired because two cavemen believed I was a moron.
I got furious every time I remembered Ayham’s statement. His tone, his voice, his words. I got furious even more when my intelligence got insulted by a bunch of failures.
Their demeanor made learning Arabic writing much easier for me–it gave me the fuel I needed to work harder: anger. I started learning on my own. I worked for long hours non-stop and took Arabic writing lessons.
In 350 BC, Aristotle wrote, “The angry man is aiming at what he can attain, and the belief that you will attain your aim is pleasant.”
Within less than two months, I became the company’s most skilled editor although all of their employees had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and mass communication from the University of Damascus. No one believed I had learned Arabic writing very recently. I do not claim to be one of the best nor was I ever comfortable writing in Arabic, but I do write high-quality articles with almost no grammar or spelling mistakes.
It took me two more months to show everyone how gifted I am by allowing my professionalism and hard work to speak for me. I became the company’s most valuable asset to the point where they took advantage and exploited me (big time). I played a vital role in many projects, I built the only strong team–the only team actually–the company ever saw, and I owned and managed many successful projects. I learned fast and was always ready for challenges. I wrote articles, reports and interviews in Arabic, and I translated from English to Arabic and vice versa.
It took a toll on my sight and mental health. I was bullied by the management as well as the employees, I was exploited and humiliated, but I did make a difference. After I left, the management was on a quest to find a ‘new Anan.’ I was told they hired five people to fill my shoes, but they failed to fill a portion of it. I very recently received a phone call from one of their new hires, who said to me through tears, “My editor told me I could never be a match for you!” I never met her or even heard of her before.
Making people who do not know me hate me is cheap and sneaky, but if we look at the bright side of it, they were admitting they had never met anyone like me. This does not matter anyways because I can now write in Arabic, and I learned how to turn people’s $hit into fuel.