Thursday morning, I woke up with a puffy painful red right eye. Normally, one would stay home from work under these conjunctivitis circumstances. But I couldn’t as I am managing a major conference next week. The project languished under a leader gone AWOL and is in grave danger of being the worst organized event in the history of poorly organized events.
Just to provide an example: we have an astronaut coming from the US and no one has made hotel reservations for him or arranged for a driver. He may already be on a plane. And this is the LEAST of my issues. Obviously, I have no option but to help save the day, along with my superb colleagues Omar and Sayed. We inherited this project, and a lot hinges on its success. So we have to work hard and fast.
I walk into my workplace, after four days of being employed, and announce my pink-eye status to all. One of my colleagues asks if I can take the day off. I looked at her and laughed. My boss says, “Look what we’ve done to you!” One of the other senior staff says, “what is pig eye?” The others recoil in horror.
I proceed to work, with eye getting worse. Mid morning, the guy who helps us get our work permits, etc., shows up and says it’s time to get my fingerprints taken. Great, is all I can think, I’m going to get ink mixed in with the pink if I touch my eye. I get in his Mercedes van and head off. We arrive at an “Identity” Centre where I join the ranks of dozens and dozens of immigrants trying to complete the paperwork process. I’m sent into a room to wait with the ladies, who are dressed impeccably with perfect makeup. I did not wear makeup because of my eye. In fact, I realize that I look awful. Whatever. It’s just prints.
My number is called and I go into a booth. My fingerprints are taken ELECTRONICALLY! Phew. No ink. I guess it’s been a while since I got my fingerprints taken. Then the lady says “time to take your picture.” WHAT? My picture? I ask her why. She says that it’s for my Emirates ID. This will be THE PICTURE of record for my time here.
She tells me to pull all my hair back, so all of my face and ears will show. She tells me to relax. I sigh and sink into my shame. She takes the picture. We both look at it and burst out laughing. I look like a meth addict: pale face melting, eyes drooping, one of them now red and swollen. No makeup. No lipstick. Hair swung back with no style. I am colorless blob except for my right eye.
“Not that relaxed,” the lady clerk tells me, and she laughs again. As if there is any hope of getting a good image of me today.
We try the picture again. It’s a tad bit better, but there’s no hiding the fact that I have an eye infection. And every time someone asks for my ID, they will see that eye infection too. They will wonder how I passed the medical test to even work here.
We shuttle back to work, and even though my eye is now dripping bacteria — and I feel like crying because vendors for the upcoming event are calling to yell at me — I work myself to the bone.
Finally at 6 p.m. I head home and to the pharmacy across the street. In the UAE, pharmacists can prescribe medicine. I don’t need to go to a doctor. Anyway, the pharmacist gives me eye drop antibiotics and an eye wash. Total? Fifteen US dollars. Safely in my house, I wash said eye and put the drops in. Then I watch “Orange is the New Black” because I look like a few of the characters.
I woke up this morning to a vastly improved eye situation. Nearly healed, actually. I feel so much better.
But why, oh why, of the almost 90 days that I’ve been here, did I have to get my photo ID on the ONE day I had pink eye?