So your landlord, Abou Shakib, calls you on the first day of the month to say hi, ask how your wife is doing and then talk about a bunch of irrelevant stuff. Of course, you both know why he’s really calling.

“7abib albe ya 3omre, shu sar ma3na bel ajar?” Ma3na. As if it is a mutual search for money.

“Abou Shakib, el ma3ash jeye bi khamse el shaher.”

This is a conversation probably every single Lebanese tenant has had at least once in their life after moving out on their own. Problem is, this is Lebanon. Honesty is passé, punctuality is a mythical creature, and promises are made with the same frequency as a group of fake girls who hate one another but still hang out say, “I love you."

Waiting to be paid in Lebanon is like dying. Some companies keep your money for as long as they can so they can cash on interest, others offer imaginary dates they don’t intend to keep. Some jobs (like teaching at the Lebanese University) pay you after two years! All in all, it is a sad mess. But does Abou Shakib care? Not one bit. Since waiting to get paid is actually a lot like dying, it is only appropriate that we apply here the Kubler-Ross model for the five stages of dealing with a loved one's death: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, Acceptance.

1. Denial

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You told Abou Shakib you will pay him on the fifth of the month. You’re actually supposed to get paid on the third, so you have two more days of buffer time in case something happens. You call your bank on the third and are informed that your payment has not arrived yet. There must be a reason, you tell yourself. There must have been some mistake. So you call your freelance employer to see what’s up, but you end up reaching the secretary. She tells you that Mr. Shaklo Ghalat Menel Awwal is out of the country. You’re still polite, though in disbelief, so you ask her when he will be back since he owes you a check for that job you did for him. She tells you not to worry, that Mr. Menel Awwal always pays his debts. "Always," she emphasizes.

He’s like Tywin from the House Lannister, if you've ever read or watched Game of Thrones. A Lannister from top to bottom if you squint really hard and use your imagination. But the problem remains: when will you be paid? One day, two days max. You hang up, wanting to believe her with every shred of good will you have left in your body because the alternative is so much worse.


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You call on the fifth, at 9 in the morning so as to get the check you need before Abou Shakib calls you. But this time, another secretary answers and she has no idea what you are talking about. She proposes to take your number and call you when Mr. Shaklo, the Freelance Killer, Ghalat, of House Lannister, comes back from his long overdue vacation to Paris in 20 days.

So you drop all pretense of civility and you lose your sh*t. You start screaming about how unacceptable this is and that you will take action, you will raise hell and close down the company, destroy their crops and slay their first born. The secretary, whose nails are being trimmed mid-fight, tells you to call later when the other secretary who has your file comes, mostly because she has no idea what crops and slay mean. So you shout, “don’t you dare hang up on me!” She does dare, and she does hang up.

3. Bargaining

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Panic sets in. You have already cursed Lebanon, all employers, checks, rents, and life as we know it. You wonder if your mom can talk to your dad about taking you back in for a few days until you and your family find a new home. And as you are thinking these dark thoughts, your phone rings.

“7abib albe, 3youne, kifa el Madame? Wel bannout? Allah ykhallilak yehon! Wein el ajar?”

And here’s where the bargaining starts. You start with walla, and you move on to the a7wel, and the allah la y2adder.

But Abou Shakib has heard it all before. Abou Shakib is a landlord. He is used to getting paid without moving a muscle every month. So you abandon all dignity and you bargain. You will give him two months advance if he can wait just a few days. But he is adamant: no rent, no house. All this concern that he expresses at the start of each month regarding your family and your well-being is just small talk. So that’s it then: you’re about to lose your house.

So what do you do? You call your parents and you beg bargain with them.

4. Depression

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Your undignified bargaining has taken its toll and also removed a giant chunk of your soul. The once-proud person you knew yourself as has died a slow, horrible death after having spent the last couple of days begging. You think about calling Mr. Shaklo Ghalat to tell him what a terrible person he is, but you no longer have the energy. You do not understand how people can be so thoughtless and uncaring.

You imagine Mr. Shaklo in Paris, sipping expensive wine while you are packing your bags after being evicted. You cry a little when you see your work on TV or in a magazine. You know that the company you gave your work to is now a better company because of your efforts. They are flaunting your work for all to see, assuring clients that if they want quality results, they should call them.

5. Acceptance

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You have no money, you are about to lose your house, and there is nothing in the fridge to eat. But there are more important things in life, right? Your kid is healthy, your wife, who’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, is still so pretty - even when she cries - and your mom and dad will love you no matter what. It is the 23rd of the month, and Abou Shakib has already put an ad in Al-Waseet newspaper. You have accepted your fate with grace. You even walk the new tenants through the house, showing them around. Life is so much more than bills you know? Lebanon is cruel like that but it’s ok because it has so much more to offer. Does France or Canada have the biggest jat 7ommos? No, they don’t. You are now as calm as a coma patient, and as productive.

And then you get a phone call. Mr. Shaklo Ghalat enjoyed France a lot and wishes you were there with him. Your check is ready. And there is another job he needs from you. In fact, you got your check exactly because there is something they need from you. But who cares, you call Abou Shakib, you call your parents, you call everyone informing them of the great news. You go with your wife to shop for groceries to finally fill the fridge but you keep in mind that it’s the 23rd and that in one week you have another round of rent to pay. But it’s ok. You know why?

Actually it's not ok. Getting paid what you are owed in Lebanon has to be one of the worst experiences you will ever encounter. A shame, really. Can you imagine a country that has the biggest jat 7ommos AND pays you on time without begging? That would be unrealistically awesome. And life is not unrealistically awesome.


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