“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 5 years of being commended by C-level executives and senior managers at multinational corporations for being smart and talented, some caveman at a small website 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 have done that, too.
September 10th, 2014. I was escorted by a silent woman through a series of empty door frames with doorknobs which worked ridiculously well, passing by fluorescent-lit cubicles with broken panels and grumpy employees. I asked what her name was and she snapped, “Norah”.
I watched Norah 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 certainly not one of them. Her skin was grayish because she had brown skin tone but insisted on wearing rice flour in place of foundation.
She stopped and turned around. I jumped. It looked as if she carried 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 which survived the 1941 Battle of Damascus during WWII. 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 messy, 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.” Norah said to the baboon-looking guy before she strolled outside.
He flashed me a dirty look 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 on the laptop which I’ve always respected; it was a war veteran and a former samurai. It survived a bombing and perhaps 7 to 8 hard falls, around 8 buttons were missing and its screen was violently stabbed with various sharp objects. It was slow and froze at least 4 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 couldn’t understand a word.
An hour passed and Ayham whiningly said to me, “What’s taking you so long?”
“I’m working.” I replied.
An hour later, Ayham whined again, “All I gave you were 6 easy lines!”
“I told the Managing Editor when he interviewed me that my Arabic was quite 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’ve 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.
I then gave up trying. “You can come take a look at what I’ve done if you want.” I said to Ayham.
I gave him my seat and tried to crack a couple of jokes, but maybe the muscles which helped his face smile were numb. He stared blankly at the screen, grunted, got up and marched outside the conference room and into the Managing Editor’s room.
“This girl is a moron, and I will not waste my time training someone as stupid as she is.” I heard Ayham yell.
I don’t know where he disappeared after that day, but I later learned that he was famous for lacking the skill 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 sentence. His tone, his voice and his words. I got furious even more when my intelligence was 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 I 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 learned Arabic writing very recently. I don’t claim to be one of the best, and I must admit I’m still more comfortable writing in English than 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 was by allowing my professionalism and hard work to speak for me. I became the company’s most valuable asset to the point where they 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 witnessed 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.
I started to wear eyeglasses, I got extremely stressed, I was bullied by the management and 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 5 people to fill my shoes, but they failed to do so. I very recently received a phone call from one of their new hires who said to me through tears, “My manager told me I could never be a match for you!” I never met her or even heard of her.
Making people who don’t know me hate me is cheap and sneaky, but if we looked at the bright side of it, they were admitting they’ve never met anyone like me. This doesn’t matter anyway because I now write quality content in two languages, English and Arabic, and I learned how to turn people’s $hit into fuel.