birthday in berzerkeley.

birthday in berzerkeley.

[So this was almost a month ago. June 24th, to be exact. So? I'm trying to update you on my life here. Get used to it.]

When you’re a recent college graduate and you feel like you can finally start doing exactly what you used to brusquely tell people you’d be doing when they repeatedly inquired about your post-graduation plans (i.e. “Sleep”), it’s slightly annoying to be awoken at 8 a.m. every morning by your father shaking you and helping you up to a sitting position and telling you, with effusive cheerfulness, to “Look out the window, Yasmine! See my little fig tree in the courtyard? It’s growing up! And did you see those bushes I planted yesterday? You didn’t? Oh, you have to go take a walk outside and check them out. Come on, go wash your face.”

But then you realize your father and his good-intentioned wake-up endeavors are endearing in comparison to checking your emails and finding out that you actually didn’t pass your neurobiology, physiology, and behavior (NPB) class and guess who’s going to have to take summer school? (Yeah, just say it with me: Freakin’ hell.)

So you spend half the day exchanging emails with a multitude of advisors, and, if you weren’t so stressed and annoyed, you’d find the ever-lengthening subject line of the emails almost comical – Re: Re: FWD: Re: FWD: Re: HDE major requirement. The whole ordeal just reinforces your view that advisors are useless, which is, you tell yourself, exactly why you’ve never consulted people for advice and always went ahead and did things on your own. That way, if you mess everything up – which, let’s face it, you just did – then fine, at least it’s only your own fault.

(Little do you realize that this little drama is going to go on for the next three weeks, by the end of which time you’ve mentally cursed your multitude of advisors to no end, especially your useless faculty advisor who is on vacation and your master advisor who is currently conducting research in China but who honors your request for a meeting in person by asking about your availability and then never responds back. Why does he even bother to ask, if, as it turns out, he’s going to be in China for the rest of the summer? Good lord, what a waste of time.)

So what’s a girl to do?

The best option is to salvage the rest of a lovely day by driving to Berkeley and spending the afternoon with Somayya and the lovely L lady (Birthday Girl Extraordinaire), who is taking an Arabic course at Cal.

So, I did.

I got a phone call from my good ol’ ex-co-worker H#3 as I was passing through the Caldecott Tunnel. “So how’s work without me and Somayya around?” I asked. “I bet it’s all sad and boring, huh?”
“That’s what you think,” he replied smugly. “Actually, we’ve been getting a lot more work done without you guys here.”
“Right,” I said skeptically. “And that means, what? You now play online poker even more often than you ever did before?”

Somayya called me just as I walked down to the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph. “Where you at? W is here, too, but he’s about to leave.” My favorite Afghan!
“No! Tell him not to move! I’ll be right there in a second.”
“Alright, but hurry up.”

I reunited with W, Somayya, and L on the sidewalk in front of Amoeba Records, and the first thing on the list was to belatedly convey my condolences for W’s grandfather’s recent death. “Well, he lived a long and fulfilling life, and passed away in his sleep, you know. So, alhamdulillah,” said W.
“InshaAllah, may it be that easy for all of us, when our time comes” I said, and asked about his sister: “How’s F doing?”
“I guess she’s okay.”
I arched an eyebrow. “You only guess?”
“I don’t know, every time I see her, she’s annoying.”
You’re annoying!” said Somayya, and tried to kick him in the shins, just as he deftly sidestepped.

W soon left, and, as Somayya, L, and I turned around to walk back towards campus, I recounted the AIM exchange I had had with H#3 earlier in the day:
“So I IMed him this morning and asked for K’s number, ’cause you know how I smashed my phone into pieces at Commencement and lost a bajillion numbers, right? Literally three hours later, he comes back with, ‘Hola, what you up to?’ and then disappears again. The kid never gives me the information I’m requesting. It’s so bothersome.”
“Wait, he said what?” asked Somayya.
“‘Hola.’ ”
Somayya started laughing, and L joined in. “It’s pronounced without the ‘h’: ola! You don’t say the ‘h’ part. Yazzo, I don’t ever want to hear you say ‘hola’ in public again.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know that? I took German, remember?”

I can use suitably impressive English words like juxtaposition and connoisseur and supercalifrajilisticexpialidocious, and I can rattle off the names of some of my favorite desserts at the Austrian bakery (topfenstrudel, palatschinken, zwetschgenflek) with an almost-straight face, thanks to six years of German education, but simple, four-letter Spanish words are beyond me. Clearly, I am not that smart, and it’s no wonder I failed NPB.

We sat on the steps outside the MLK building and gleefully presented L with her birthday gift: a new cell phone to replace the one she had lost a couple of weeks before. Although she had been temporarily using an extra phone of Somayya’s since, we were tired of waiting for her to replace her phone and knew the whole situation had been stressful on her as well. The expression on L’s face – a cross between surprise, gratitude, and outrage – was priceless. Especially when she realized it was the latest model, whereupon she tried to convince us that if she went into the store personally, she could get her phone replaced at a fraction of the amount we had spent.

“Exactly how much did this cost?” she kept demanding.
“We’re not telling you!”
She shook her head disapprovingly. “You kids are out of control. Out of CONTROL.
“You know you love it!”
“This is the freakin’ latest model! I had insurance on mine, so I could have gotten a replacement for $30!”
“Well, you were taking your damn time about it,” I said snidely, “so we took care of it for you. Stop being a nerd about it.”
“I’m going to return this tomorrow, and you’re getting all your money back!”
“Nooo, you can’t do that!” I protested. “This is our present to you!”
“Fine, return it then!” said Somayya. “But you’re keeping all the damn money.”
“Fine. Give me the receipt.”
I took it out of my bag and handed it over. A split second later, I realized my mistake: “Wait, I don’t trust you. You’re going to look at the price and start screaming and then you’ll refuse to keep the money.”
Somayya wrestled the receipt out of L’s hand, L tried to grab it back, and I laughed hysterically while watching the entire tussle. “You don’t get the receipt until you sign a freakin’ contract! Hold on, I need some paper.” I felt around in my handbag for a piece of paper, but only managed to come up with my paycheck envelope. “Alright, hold on.” I scribbled a few lines on the back of the envelope and handed it over. “Sign it!”

I, LAR, do hereby agree to keep all the cash I get refunded from the returning of my birthday gift phone to T-Mobile and I cannot give the money back to any of my friends no matter how much it is because I have to keep it and spend it for my own upkeep and general happiness and birthday gratitude for as long as it takes to spend it all.

The end.

x _____________________________
24 June 2005
Berkeley/Davis, California

She frowned, shook her head, and signed, I laughed my head off, we duly handed the receipt over, she looked at the amount and shrieked, “I hate you!” as expected for a few minutes, then pocketed the receipt, and all was well with the world.

We wandered around Bancroft and took some hilarious photos at the photo booth (something we had been planning to do every time we were in Berkeley, but somehow never got around to doing). 2Scoops called, and we commiserated about stupid NPB (me) and the bar exam (him), and how driving one’s friends crazy is an essential part of every friendship (“Yeah, I think she totally hates us now,” I said, as L looked over and mouthed, “Out of control!”). We also discussed how cool Baji is, and L, overhearing this, remarked gleefully, “Baji sent me a postcard from Costa Rica!” We all agreed that Baji is a rockstar. I know you all know this already, but it must be said again.

Then we made a beeline for the elevators in the MLK lobby, only to encounter issues when we attempted to go up to the third floor. We pressed “3,” and the elevator kept opening and closing its doors on the first floor. I laughed, remembering the last time something like that had happened. (Is it just me, or does my life really go around in circles?) After the fifth or so try, we gave up and headed back outside, sitting on the grass bordering Sproul Plaza. L let me listen to HijabMan’s “happy birthday song” voicemail, and then I busied myself with re-acquiring lost phone numbers with Somayya’s help.

She scrolled through her entire cell phone, reading off names from A-Z, no less. “What about ___? How ’bout ___?”
“Nah, don’t need that one. I probably won’t ever call him/her.”
L laughed at my nonchalance, but I figured, there are very few people I actually make the effort to call semi-regularly, so why bother with everyone else? I’m not much of a phone person.

This reminded us that we missed our friend H, who is notorious for never returning phone calls.
“Let’s try a new strategy,” said Somayya dryly. She called him and left the following voicemessage: “H, this is Somayya. I’m dying. Call me back.”

We decided we were hungry, so we high-tailed it down to Naan ‘n’ Curry, where we scarfed down some aloo parathhas and chicken. Amazingly enough, H returned Somayya’s phone call, and good times were had by all as we mercilessly guilt-tripped him for “calling only when Somayya is dying.”

As I was walking back to my car, a grizzled old street vendor called out, “Assalamu alaikum!” Surprised, I grinned back and responded to his greeting.

On the way home, I stopped for gas. The turbaned Sikh gentleman at the gas station took one look at my jeans, hijab, and purple kameez and enquired, “Punjabi?”
I smiled. “No, Pukhtun.”
He looked confused, so I amended, “Pakistani.”
He smiled back. “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you, you too.”

Back home, I had to explain my NPB drama to the daddy-o. Surprisingly, he only laughed. “Didn’t you used to be an NPB major?”
“Yes,” I said wryly. “And I didn’t stick with it for obvious reasons.”

Later that evening, I stopped by his room. “Daddy khana, I need a check for my tuition and registration fees.”
“You know where the checkbook is.” [This is Daddy-o Speak for 'Get the checkbook and make out the check yourself, you lazy bum.']
I dutifully retrieved his checkbook and filled out the amount, then handed it to him to sign.
“How much is it for?” He glanced at it and sucked in a breath, then released it in a whoosh. “Yours is going to be the most expensive education ever.”
Before I even had time to wince, he added, “But it’s all worth it.”

I’m blessed to have a father who thinks money is never wasted if it’s spend on books and education. Alhamdulillah.

When I ran into my friend S a few days later, I apologized for forgetting to return his phone call from the week before.
“No,” he said, “you did call me back.”
“Oh, I did?” I said in surprise. “I totally don’t remember.”
“Yeah, you called me the same day. And you were hella pissed off.”
I laughed. “It was about having to retake that damn NPB class, I bet. Yeah, I was really annoyed about all that drama.”
He smirked knowingly. “It was all those naps you took last quarter, wasn’t it? Maybe you shouldn’t have slept so much.”
“Shut up.”

[Okay, the end. Really.]

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