A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Who lives here? more cable in Beirut

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 8, 2007

When my satellite television bill came due last month, I wrote about Lebanon’s grey market “cable” system (white in terms of organization, black in terms of government regulation).

I explained that every month I receive a receipt detailing the amount of my bill and providing a company name, agent name and contact number – the same as I do when I buy goods and services in legal arenas.

(The only thing missing is the government stamp, which I will write about one of these days – since the Stamp Act of 1765, Americans have been a bit touchy about governments that raise revenue by requiring official stamps on certain documents. Moving to a part of the world where paying for government stamps is a way of life required a big shift in my thinking.)

And I also explained that the name on the receipt is not mine – it belongs to a man named Muhammad Badr al-Muhtaram.

When the cable guy came around at the start of December, I decided to ask him about my alter ego.

Who is this man, Muhammad Badr al-Muhtaram? I asked.

He is the one who lives in this apartment, the cable man answered.

I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. I am the one who lives in this apartment, I said.

Well, maybe he lives there too? he asked

No, I said firmly. This is my apartment. Did he think I was the maid? Did he think I was so stupid that I didn’t notice a strange Lebanese man living in my apartment? Who knows!

Well, perhaps he lived there before you did, he said.

I don’t think so – I was told that an elderly woman used to live here.

But I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about having some strange man’s name on my illegal cable account, rather than my own :).

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