Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why are we waiting?

The Automatic Teller Machine, also known as the ATM, ATM machine, fruit machine, or even fuloos-o-mat is a wonderful device that can magically dispense real crinkly cash into my hand whilst simultaneously deducting that same sum from my bank account. The wonder is that the machine and the bank might be half a planet apart. Red Triangles bank even sends me a text message when the transaction occurs. Such magic!

The system does upon occasion go wrong. I should like to offer my heartfelt thanks on behalf of Beloved Wife to the staff at Red Triangles for the prompt and courteous manner in which the Bank handled a recent ATM problem.

Unfortunately, I am unable to do so, because of the abominable and egregious customer service provided by RTB, in apparent accordance with normal custom and practice.

When instructing that twenty Omani Rials be dispensed from a RTB machine in Muscat on 7th April, the sum of around Dh190 was immediately deducted from Beloved Wife’s account. Behold the SMS. Cash was not forthcoming; instead merely a receipt stating

    Please contact the Bank


Beloved Wife went immediately into the Bank and brandished the receipt. She was told that RTB (Oman) couldn’t help, and she’d have to take up the matter with RTB (UAE). Pah! So much for allegations that this particular bank is both local and global.

Back in Dubai a couple of days later, and RTB’s telephone helpless desk advised that Beloved Wife should wait three days, after which the bank’s ghastly error would be corrected and all monies automatically refunded. Yeah, right.

On 13th April, the bank’s Business Centre in Mall o’ t’Emirates handed us an ATM Dispute Form. This would have to be faxed to 04-390 6788 because it couldn’t be handled in person by either the Business Centre or the actual branch, the latter being inconveniently located in Sharjah and not open for business except when Beloved Wife is at work.

So the Dispute Form was faxed on 13th April. And again on 24th April. Having had no response by 9th May, a month since the Bank stole the money, it was time for some phone calls. One of the problems was that the RTB fax machine was now permanently off-hook, seemingly at any time of the day or night. The helpless desk now decided, following some irate bleating from an extremely annoyed Goat, that it would be possible to email the Dispute Form (despite the Business Centre minions declaring two weeks earlier that this was not possible), so off it went through the intertubes.

Again, stony silence and tumbleweed. The promised phone call to Beloved Wife to confirm that the complaint had been elevated never happened, exactly as anticipated. Once more, a Bank employee stating: “Yes we will,” actually means, “No we won’t.”

So, on 19th May, another email to
    Gentlemen --

    Yet again I am contacting you about this issue. Yes, is "only" 190.85 dirhams, but it is MY 190.85 dirhams.

    Please rectify this situation and replace this amount in my account immediately.

    My patience with the lack of customer service at [Red Triangles] in the UAE is wearing very thin. I see little point in continuing to do business with institutions that ignore their customers.

And without apology, the money was immediately credited.

Well done, Red Triangles! A Bank error rectified in only 42 days, after two personal visits, three phone calls, two faxes, three attempted but abortive faxes, and two emails.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Driving to Abu Dhabi yesterday was a new experience. I’ve not made the trip for several weeks, and it’s true that yesterday’s journey and this morning’s return did not involve the rush hour.

The new experience involved an almost unheard-of adherence to speed limits.

In the Bad Old Days, it was common knowledge that the 120kph posted speed limit could be flouted because the cameras were all set to flash at 160kph. Coupled with virtually non-existent police patrols, the result was tailgating at 159.9kph.

And then on 2nd April, there was a 127 vehicle traffic pile-up caused by people driving inappropriately in foggy conditions. Gulf News ran a story on 4th April suggesting that the reduced speed limit was as a direct consequence of the crash. Not so; the new 140kph signs were erected but covered in sack cloth back in March.

Putting aside for a moment the possible confusion that might come about because of enormous



signs in apparent contradiction with the 120kph signs, and also that 140kph, 120kph or even 60kph might be lethally excessive in fog, the Powers That Be have now decided that enforcement is the answer.

The practical legal maximum speed limit on the Abu Dhabi section of the Dubai - Abu Dhabi road is just a trace under 140kph; exactly the same as on the Dubai section, where the posted limit is 120kph and the cameras are set with a 20kph leeway.

Today, to my surprise, most of the traffic was bowling along at 130ish. Apart, that is, from one red Mercedes, the driver of which seemed to consider that speed limits only apply to other people. He went roaring past at probably 160kph, only to attract the immediate unwelcome, inconvenient and expensive attention of a large red and white car with blue lights on its roof that had been cruising in the right-hand lane. Time for a Muntz moment.

And there we have it. The fundamental means to keep traffic speeds to within limits is to tell everyone what those limits are and then to enforce them.

There were no visible police patrols on the journey back, but again everyone seemed to be staying below 140kph. Maybe the message is starting to sink in.


Monday, May 09, 2011

T'weekend is comin' an' it's time for a bath

Last weekend was exhausting.

Dubai St George’s Society Ball was postponed from its traditional 23rd April, presumably to avoid clashing with the Royal Wedding, and to ensure that the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines would be able to come. On the run up to the event, the Goat was chasing around for jobs, passports, visas and so forth, and with less than one week to go, it at last became apparent that You Shall Go To The Ball!

Beloved Wife’s Aunt in Abu Dhabi has a colleague who wanted to attend the Ball with his wife, but the couple didn’t wish to leave their son Kay home alone. A plot hatched that entailed the Aunt and teenager being dropped off at the Crumbling Villa on Friday morning, shopping, errands and entertaining Kay all afternoon, and then Beloved Wife and Goat heading off for a riotous evening including Roast Beef of Old England, unlimited special beverages, a military band, patriotic singing and then dancing the night away to the Royal Marines’ Dance Band. Another task was to find enough gear in the Crumbling Villa’s emporium of dive kit, tools and bicycles for four snorkellers. That was part of Saturday’s plan.

Kay, who is thirteen, spent Friday afternoon ably demonstrating how Beloved Wife’s latest toy, an X-Box Kinect, should be used. Naturally, he has set the bar so high that certain middle-aged owners of said X-Box are going to have to reset the unit or else become unbelievably fit. No prizes for guessing which is more likely.

The Ball was huge fun, with the added bonus of the Goat actually winning a spot prize. Turning the voucher into the actual prize will entail a trip behind the Red Door in Ras Al Khaimah.

So we got home at 2am, dirty stop-outs that we were, and were up again at 6am to go snorkelling.

Any excuse for the Goat to get the bike out and head off to the mountain roads and the east coast.

Kay had allegedly never snorkelled before. Fortuitously, the Goat is a snorkel instructor, and because Kay took to snorkelling like a duck to water, the pool session took about ten minutes and then everybody headed for the sea.

There were the usual tropical fish, large shoals of juvenile barracuda, but no reef sharks or turtles, and the water was a bit murky. It was very smooth though, and there was no current, so the underwater Goat with snorkel and flippers set off with Kay around the seaward side of Snoopy Island. Aargh! Oil slick!! As soon as he realised, the Goat dived below the surface and made a U-turn into clearer water, dragging Kay along. Generally a lucky escape, although the Goat needed to find some olive oil and Fairy Liquid to get the noisome sticky bituminous mess out of his hair. Due thanks to the beach-bar staff at Sandy Beach for being helpful with detergents.

After lunch, the whole party had time to flop in the pool before heading back to Dubai to drop off Aunt and Kay for their trip back to Abu Dhabi. The Goat got back on the bike, and headed south through Fujairah to Kalba. He’d not been in that area for a year or so, and was amazed by the amount of recent construction in Fujairah. It was better to refuel at Al Ghayl before hitting the mountains. The Goat once ran out of petrol on the Sharjah-Kalba road; an embarrassing exercise he doesn’t intend to repeat. A very therapeutic ride on the bendy Kalba to Sharjah road, included entertainment provided by persons unknown piloting black-windowed sports cars. They vanished beyond the horizon upon hitting the monotonous straight bit at Shawka (N 25°04.9' E056°01.6').

Meeting back at the Crumbling Villa, the Goat had changed out of his sweaty biking gear. Everyone piled into the Goatmobile to drop off Aunt and Kay for their trip back to Abu Dhabi, and retrieve Beloved Wife’s car from the Grand Hyatt’s valet parking.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sic semper capris

Plenty of things have happened since the Goat’s previous post, including a Wedding, some outrageous Millinery, the death of a Terrorist and the UK’s first Referendum in 36 years. All of these have been commented ad nauseam by others, and the Goat doesn’t feel able to add much in the way of new thoughts.

Sadly, offers of permanent employment have remained non-existent, and the Goat is therefore currently in the UAE visiting his Beloved Wife in 30-day chunks.

The process of becoming a Kept Goat under Beloved Wife’s sponsorship turns out to involve various jumps through widely-spaced flaming hoops. Although an official marriage certificate was obtained from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2007, it now transpires that this original copy cannot be attested because it is more than one year old. How about that? American marriage certificates appear only to be valid for a year, or so it seems.

The document is perfectly acceptable to prevent the Men In White from kicking down the door of the Crumbling Villa and hauling folk off to Al Slammah for adultery, but is insufficient proof of marriage for the purposes of obtaining Resident status.

A new certificate has been obtained from the County. This now has to be returned to the County for attestation. Then it has to go to the State Office. Of course, the document must be returned to Beloved Wife at each stage; it’s not possible to post it to the office just up the road. And then the multiply-stamped certificate goes to the UAE Embassy in Washington DC, again via Dubai, before it has incurred sufficient bureaucracy to be acceptable, and the Residence Visa process can commence.

How about getting someone – a brother-in-law, perhaps – who lives in Virginia to handle the various stages? Not possible: fees have to be paid by cheque* drawn on the account of one of the parties named on the marriage certificate, and the document must be returned to that person each time.

Of course, the moment the Goat becomes re-employed, all this marriage certificate attestation will become moot. Unfortunately, the Goat is not holding his breath.

* Possibly ‘check’ given that it’s drawn on an American bank.


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