"Where do we stand on acquiring ourselves with our parent company? Employee health insurance? The auditors? And what about insurance on our computers?"
I was getting an update from our office accountant, and as an afterthought, I added: "And buy some smoke detectors while you're at it."
A blank look. "You know, when there's a fire they go BEEP BEEP BEEP."
"These are not common in Egypt."
"So what. We need them. It's stupid to buy all that insurance if we can't even be bothered with the cheap kind--smoke detectors."
And so we put the secretary--who spends much of her time staring at the wall--to work calling around to find smoke detectors. When she informed me that a number of agencies would call her back tomorrow with quotes on sprinkler systems, I became annoyed.
"No, not a system. All we want is four battery-operated smoke detectors. They are white. They are round. They screw into the ceiling. They go BEEP BEEP BEEP."
She nodded uncertainly and went back to studying the Cairo phone book. "Call Radio Shack," I yelled across the room. The secretary smiled and looked a bit terrified. "Why is this madwoman beeping and yelling at me, and why doesn't she learn Arabic," is perhaps what crossed her mind.
That night, I went to Alfa Market. They didn't have any smoke detectors.
No matter, I thought. Tomorrow night during our burger run to Ma'adi, we'll go by Carrefour. That's like the Wal-Mart of Europe, and there's a king-size one in Maadi. Surely, they can help me with my beeping problem.