On my arrival at Jeddah airport, Harold was there to meet me. As it was lunchtime by the time we arrived on site, Harold took me straight to the canteen. As we walked in, I noticed two seated English guys having lunch. On seeing me walk in, one looked up.
“Do you have my passport?” he asked.
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“No,” I replied. “My driver who is driving down from Riyadh has it.” On his saying I should have brought it, I replied, “Don’t worry, he can only loose it!”
At this remark, he went crazy. Without any warning, he jumped up sending his chair crashing to the floor. The next minute I felt the cold touch of the end of the spoon he was holding pressed tight against my throat. His nostrils were flared, and his eyes blazing with temper.
“Don’t even joke about it,” he shouted out. I went icy cold with fright. For a minute I thought he was going to rip my throat out with the spoon. Then after what seemed like a lifetime, he removed the spoon from my throat and walked outside. I stood there in total shock. From the surprised look on Harold’s face, he was as shocked as I by this amazing incident.
A few hours later my driver arrived with the car. On my asking if he had brought a passport with him, he took it out of his pocket and handed it to me. I then gave it to Harold to hand to the man. The next day, the man who had attacked me came and apologized.
“Sorry about the other day, but I have been here six months without a break. I need one before I go crazy.”
My stay in Saudi Arabia and the port city of Jeddah started in 1983. It came about when, due to a serious back problem, I lost my job in the UK. By the time I had recovered from my illness, my wife and I had used up all our savings. To put it mildly, we were in a serious financial situation. In view of this, I decided the best way for us to get back on our feet would be for me to get a job overseas. Having already done so twice, I knew I could earn far more money doing that than I could in the UK.
Once I had fully revised my CV, I sent it to a company I knew carried out overseas contracts. About two weeks later, I received a letter informing me the company was looking for someone re a position in Saudi Arabia. To expedite matters, the company had already made an appointment to see the Overseas Managing Director. This was great news.
Shortly after the letter arrived, my wife answered a phone call from a man asking to speak to me. While explaining I would not be home until later, the man suddenly asked, “Is that Jen?”
On her replying yes, the man said, “Hi Jen! It’s Arnie.” My wife knew Arnie from some years ago when he and I had worked for the same company.
“Oh, hi, Arnie. Where are you?”
“I am in Saudi Arabia.”
“No, really, Arnie, where are you?”
“Honestly, Jen, I am in Saudi Arabia.”
“That’s a coincidence! Colin has just received a letter re an interview about a job there.”
“Yes, I know, and that’s why I am calling. The person Colin will be seeing is my boss. I want to tell him what salary he should ask for. Have him call me.” On talking to Arnie later, I was amazed when he told me the figure I should ask for. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I would be able to earn that kind of money.
At my London interview, Ian, my future boss, explained everything about the position, including the salary. The position was for a Projects Supervisor, based in Riyadh. I would be working on a palace for the Royal Family. The salary I was pleased to learn was as Arnie had predicted. I accepted a one-year renewable contract.
I was delighted to be working on a palace but, as I had never worked on one before, it was with much apprehension that I flew to Riyadh. By going there, I would earn far more money than I had ever earned. This would enable my wife and me to get back on a secure financial footing. However, on the downside, I would not be seeing my family for six months. This being when I would be due two weeks leave. Although not happy about this part of my contract, it was something I had to grin and put up with.