Crossing Cairo – Night-time and the taxi driver, peering at the talled traffic ahead, lights a cigarette, apologizes and says he needs it. He says he is tired.
“Why. A lot work?”
“I work two jobs.”
“Because my day-job with a company is not enough. Not any more. I drive here six, seven night a week and it is still not enough.”
“What do you mean?”
“I cannot pay my bills. I cannot buy meat more than once a week. A year ago it was better. Two years ago even better. Now nothing. Nothing. I work and I have nothing. I work and three of us at home work. And what, what is there to show? Nothing. And I am tired.”
Rumbling forward in fits in his small ramshackle, time-weary taxi-antique, I glance over in the dim lighting at the middle-aged driver with a deep furrow across his forehead, a thin balding man who swims in the old wrinkled grey sport-coat he is wearing, and I wonder.
Why don’t I read about him and all the others who are struggling here and across the Middle East? Where are the stories about people whose small businesses have collapsed, who have lost their gambles on stock markets that vanished like sand coming across the desert? As of today, stock markets across the Middle East have lost half of their value in only a few months.
Where are the stories about the university graduates working in the local stories so they can get by; the stories about the young middle-class workers whose savings disappeared when the inflation roared up to 20 percent and who could no longer pay their bills? About the workers sent home from lucrative jobs elsewhere?
I don’t see them day in and day out in the newspaper or on the television. I don’t see any word about them except when there are explosions of despair: marches or strikes and when a government official says as bad as it seems things will get better. When? And how? This is what I am looking for in the newspaper, but it is not there.
But it is here in the Cairo night, stalled and going nowhere.