A control freak in Dubai

Holly Sands has trouble in a city in which everything is done for you

Last word, The Knowledge

It’s been some years since I moved back to Dubai, after spending my teens in the UK. It should now have been long enough to become reaccustomed to surrendering the bottle of water on the restaurant table, allowing the waiter to pour it on my behalf. If only I’d actually managed to get used to it.

The fact of the matter is I’m not so much a control freak as The Controller. The stuff husbands’ nightmares are made of. On a good day, I make Monica Geller from Friends look like a heavily sedated, bog-dwelling hippy.

While most people revel in the fact there’s hardly ever a moment where you need lift a finger in Dubai (almost literally: you’re barely allowed to remove the ring-pull from your lemonade can), I find myself constantly irate, desperate to control the activity in my immediate surroundings. I like to do things. I like to pack my own shopping bags, because things need to be packed in the reverse order to the way I want to take them out. I like to pour my own fizzy drinks at least 30cm from the glass so they’re not too, erm, fizzy. And please, please let me clear away my own tray in the food court – I just can’t stand leaving behind that kind of mess. Of course, I’m also terrified that my neuroses might put someone out of a job (I’m controlling, not stupid), so every now and again I find myself flinchingly watching my shopping being packed into bright yellow plastic bags for me, while I yelp awkward instructions from the sidelines.

I’m terrible in taxis, constantly convinced that I, and I alone, can dictate the most efficient route (in my defence, I’ve had three arguments over the phone in the past week with drivers determined they’re parked outside my house, at the exact spot in which I’m standing). I’m even worse on a relaxing road trip out of busy Dubai. You think you know where you’re going? I know a better way.

You can keep your map: I’ll shout orders from the back seat.

You see, you can’t control me, but I have to control everything, regardless of whether I’m conscious or not. I’m a sleep-talker, and on one occasion I apparently sat bolt upright in bed to declare, ‘I’m in charge of everything.’

Though this may not be entirely true (yet), it’s definitely an ambition of sorts. Not an ambition for my career (management is my worst nightmare. Delegate? Never!), but for my private life. Pity the fool who winds up married to me. Can you imagine? The poor man will never be able to help with the shopping, tidying, or even pouring me a drink. Well, on second thoughts…
Holly Sands is our Body & Mind editor. Rush to her aid at your peril.

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