Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dubai Nights

So, I went to a board meeting of the parent company in Dubai a couple of weeks ago. It was an event I had been preparing for, and dreading, for at least a month. As it happens, the preparation was mostly for naught, and the dread was well-founded.

I knew it was going to be an explosive meeting, since anytime The Rug Merchant has to go hat-in-hand to the UK money-men, things tend to get tense. Like most Afghans, The Rug Merchant has an exaggerated sense of his own self-worth, convinced that only he can run the show and only he is responsible for any small degree of success.*

*Not that we’ve had all that much success to this point. Sure, we’ve managed to stay in business for three years before I arrived, but the company has basically nothing to show for it. No assets, no money in the bank, and only limited remittances to the UK investors. The focus on revenue as opposed to profit has meant that we’re basically a medium-sized employment agency, constantly one step away from insolvency.

So, the boss and I fly to Dubai* for the meeting, and I check into one of the swankier hotels in Dubai. That’s saying something, since Dubai is full of top-end luxury hotels. The Rug Merchant, of course, stays at home with the The Rug Merchantess, who lives in Dubai full-time. Better for me, ‘cause after four months with the moron, I don’t think I can bear another minute. Some of the money-men from the UK are there already, including The Godfather.

*First class, Ariana Airlines which is roughly equivalent to the cargo hold on British Airways. We actually board and get settled in before the rest of the passengers even leave the terminal. I’m actually well into an old copy of The Economist before the Minister of Commerce sits down next to me. Something to be said for connections.

After a catch-up dinner with the Brits and about five too many whiskies, I call it a night. I’m still recovering from the worst bout of food poisoning I’ve ever had, so serious food is out of the question, but Jack Daniels and rolls makes for an effective sleep aid. Manage to get just enough to function reasonably well for the meeting the next day.

Now, I knew that my boss was going to be in a sour mood and spoiling for a fight. It strains his fragile ego to go back to the investors and ask for more cash, especially since he has no satisfactory answer to the questions about where the first $3 million USD went. My expectation was that the meeting would start off fine and then quickly degenerate into a shouting match, as The Rug Merchant chose his target among the assembled officers. In this I was not disappointed.

What I did not anticipate was that the intended target for his childish rage would be yours truly. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming, but by the time he really got rolling I was seeing red and quite literally contemplating murder. In short, in an effort to deflect attention from his own obvious shortcomings, he repeatedly called me a liar, and insisted to all assembled that I lacked the skills or ability to make any decisions beyond what to have for breakfast. It’s important to realize that this, in his mind, was not a personal attack on me, rather an attempt to conceal his own failures and shift the blame to the investors’ hand-picked representative. Like three years of no profits could be blamed on the guy who’s been in-country for four months.

After a serious shouting match, during which The Rug Merchant actually threatened my life if I returned to Kabul, I excused myself and went back to my room to chain-smoke about twenty cigarettes. I was pretty convinced at that point that I was fired. However, cooler heads intervened (as they often do) and the money-men and my boss came to some sort of understanding. The end result is that I keep my job (whoopee!) and they will consider sending more cash to keep the whole enterprise afloat. Although I personally wouldn’t give the scumbag a dime, I’m hoping they do just that, since the company now owes me a hefty sum in back pay. Without that cash infusion, I stand little chance of actually getting paid for my time here.

After the meeting, The Rug Merchant and I were bestest pals again, at least on the surface. I’m fairly convinced that he actually has pushed the whole thing out of his mind. In the lobby as we left, he apologized for saying what he did (he didn’t mean it, of course, it’s just the way he operates) and started talking about how we had to work together to get The Godfather et. al. to send more cash. We’ll see if that happens.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had a long string of bosses in various industries, each one worse than the last.*

*Especially the time when I was self-employed. Man, that guy was an asshole.

But I have never had a boss who so effectively combined a massive ego, the mental capabilities of a retarded child, and an overbearing personality. Truly lacking in any redeeming qualities whatsoever. He may have forgotten the incident by now, or at least considers it something to be relegated to the past. I, on the other hand, have not. Nor will I. Rage and free-floating hostility are what keep me warm at night. All the better to have a focal point for it.

On the plus side, I did get to sit next to Prince Muhammed Nadir Khan on the plane on the way back. Nice guy, for a royal, and a lot more entertaining than the Minister of Commerce.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

at least the Board meeting was in Dubai. That's a lot more interesting then the ones in Plainfield and Worth that go to...