Friday, October 18, 2013

I Reserve the Right to React

I Reserve the Right to React

It is late Saturday morning.  Abdullah’s wife, Safyia, is out shopping with their youngest daughter Aisha, for school supplies.

Abdullah, who likes to be called Abu Yazan, makes his own double-double coffee, two teaspoons each of sugar and milk. Then he goes to the family room, sits down on his favorite rocking chair and starts sipping and enjoying his coffee.

Saturday’s newspaper, ads, coupons and a stack of mail are left for him on the side table. He starts skimming through the headlines, looking, precisely, for the latest news from his birthplace, Syria. He locates the article, scans it quickly and finds, not surprisingly, nothing that he doesn't already know. The coverage of the Middle East in the newspaper is usually about 8 hours old, due to the difference in time zones. Abdallah heard it and saw it all the night before on Arab satellite TV. 

Abdullah shakes his head and takes a quick glance at the business section to see how the stock market is doing. It’s not that he ever invested in it. Sometimes his curiosity takes him to the vital statistics section of the newspaper (divorces/ marriages in the community), but not today. He folds the newspaper and puts it aside. He lays the ads on top of the newspaper for now; he will get back to them later. He begins sifting through the mail. Abdullah used to say the mail here in America is so generous; your mailbox is always laden with something.

The first letter is from the ACLU asking Abdullah to donate $50 dollars to help advocate individual rights. He likes that since he is of Arab origin and he fears for his own civil rights. 

Next is a medical bill from You Are in Good Hands Hospital. It asks him to pay $1078.80. The insurance refused to pay the full cost of a Denosumab injection for his wife’s osteoporosis. It only covered 58% of the cost. Abdullah gets very angry, curses the hospital, the insurance company and does not forget to include Obama Care.

Then, a letter from National Wildlife Federation with an enclosed ‘Treasures of Wildlife’ calendar pleading with Abdullah to donate generously to protect endangered species. What about the endangered Syrian population? Abdullah mumbled to himself.

This postcard is very interesting. In large print, Abdullah reads


That does sound like a noble cause. When reading the fine print, it turns out that Issue 56 is, in fact, to allow a new casino to open in the neighborhood. The casino would donate a fraction of its profit to the schools!

Abdullah sees another letter.  For the last few months, he has been receiving this same letter with a membership card enclosed.  He loathes this offer because it reminds him of a reality he refuses to admit, not even to himself, let alone to others. Abdullah will be 60 years old next month and the AARP organization is making sure to help him remember. He is getting old.

Abdullah gets to his feet and heads to the kitchen to refill his mug with more double-double, still hot in the coffee machine. He comes back to his recliner and commences going through every charge listed on the Discover card statement. Suddenly, he freezes, his eyes locked on an online charge of $239.99 from Macy*s Department store; women’s clothing. 

Yazan comes down to the living room. He finds his father, whom he calls ‘Baba’ using the Arabic for Dad, lying on the recliner, his hands under his head and his legs crossed at the ankles, staring at the ceiling, and looking very angry. Yazan notices three crumpled papers on the floor a few feet away from Baba.

Yazan is Abdullah’s favorite son. In fact he is the only boy among five siblings. Despite his young age of 13, he has become Abdullah’s confidant.

“What is wrong Baba?”

“Nothing son. Did you do your math homework?”

“Come on Baba! I know you’re upset. You look miserable. Is it Mama again?”

Abdullah adjusts his recliner, sighs and explains,

“This time she managed to place an order online.”

“What is wrong with that Baba? Isn’t it cheaper? No sales tax!”

“How do you know about sales tax?’’

“We learned that back in sixth grade” Yazan replied proudly.

Abdullah clears his throat and adds, “Well, it is harder to return an item when purchased online if I object to it.”

“But Baba! You never objected to anything Mama bought or did!”

“Tell you what son! This time your mother went overboard. I cannot take it anymore. Every month, she spends money, right and left, on new outfits. For every occasion, be it a Aqiqah, baby shower, wedding or the like. She thinks she needs a new outfit
for …” 

Yazan, deep in thought; if Mama has one skirt suit, two pants suits and three blouses, she could then make twenty seven different outfits. At an average of two events a month to attend, one year would have to pass before Mama will be seen in the same outfit, and no human mind would be able to remember. Of course Mama has to keep a log. Yazan is a boy and is applying his math talent here. Obviously this genius idea is nonsense for his mama.

“I’ll not tolerate this anymore! I reserve the right to react!” Abdullah grumbles.

“Baba, talk to her when she comes back!”

“Son! I choose the right time to react and the way as well!”

Yazan makes a show of thinking, trying to hide a smile, “Baba! Why don’t you cancel her credit card?”

“Ah no, are you kidding me? That would be a tactical act,” Abdullah points at a side table “Besides, look at these three offers, ‘You are pre approved for a credit card with no annual fee’ waiting for your mother to consider.”  

“Baba!” Yazan thought, “you're now sounding just like the Syria TV after each Israelis’ air attack: We reserve the right to retaliate; we choose the time and the mean; a reaction now would be considered ‘tactical’” Yazan wanted to counter Baba but he did not for fear of further irritating his father. 

“Baba, Baba!” Yazan warns “They are back; I can hear the garage door rolling up”

“Okay, Okay son, get these crumpled papers off the floor.”

With a grin Yazan rushes to pick up the papers, smoothes them and returns them to Baba.

“Assalamu alaykum Abu Yazan,” Mama exclaims.

“Assalamu alaykum Baba. I got a new backpack with Dora’s picture on it!” Aisha yells.

Abdullah, with a fake smile on his face replies, “Waalaykum assalam, ahlain wasahlain.” 

Mama comes into the living room with a 24x36 plastic hanger bag with JC Penny printed on it. A navy blue skirt suit can be seen in the plastic bag.

“Abu Yazan! You won’t believe it; I saved you a lot of money today. I bought this great suit that I was waiting to see go on sale for over a month, and for only a hundred and thirty five dollars. It was seventy-five percent off, plus an extra ten percent for using my JC Penny card!” Mama exclaims. “I am so excited and I can’t wait to go up, put it on and show it to you!”

Mama rushes upstairs. Baba looks at Yazan who is about to burst out laughing. They both chuckle, keeping their hands over their mouths.

Yazan starts to leave the room when Baba calls upon him and asks him to sit down.

“Yazan, son, let me tell you something.  A true man, as the Prophet salallahu alayhi wa salam tells us, is the one who controls himself when angry. He also tells us, “The best amongst you is the one best towards his wife.”

Abdullah then praised Safyia as being an excellent wife, a superb mom, a great cook and a wonderful companion. He then adds. “She has one weakness, though, like all women, the love of shopping and for that …”

Yazan interrupts teasingly, “But Baba, no offense, you have the same weakness. Look at your wardrobe; you have fifteen shirts, twenty two trousers, not to mention over thirty neckties, and counting.”

Abdullah hops out of his recliner “It was nice talking to you this morning Yazan!”

“Sure Baba, I love you!”

Abdullah, hurriedly, heads towards the kitchen for his

double-double coffee, encore.




  1. Nice story. I am sure it took Abu Yazan along long time to reach this level of patience. and although his swife is shopping addict, she is wise in hunting sales.

  2. Salam, Nice story but I'd seriously recommend credit counseling riba is haraam, it can destroy us financially and also would recommend them to shopaholics anonymous group sessions....