Out of breath and hungry they arrived at the Internet café. The place looked like it had been one of those LA all night diners and was a café in name only. The only visible consumable was a couple of paper cups of Turkish coffee. A long thin bar outfitted with ten or twelve keyboards attached to some old school desktops jammed under the counter and connected with a heavy buss cable to an old Ohio Scientific mainframe server behind the counter. Bar stools without backs were occupied by an eclectic mix of international origin.
The man in a fez behind the antiquated cash register muttered a terse welcome with, “ Buy your time slip here. Take a number. There’ll be a computer available soon.”
Manny replied in kind, “What do we do here; rent the Internet by the minute?”
“Mostly by the hour.”
In a rare talkative frame of mind and a half-assed attempt to be cordial, the man behind the cash register tried to make small talk in what was definitely not his mother’s tongue.
“ Americans not packing laptop, i-pad or smart phone are kind of a novelty here. Usually looking for a free power outlet, Wi-Fi or a USB connection. Most of the buyers here are regulars, sending money home, everywhere from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.”
“Interesting”, Selma who had remained silent too long, “ Is language a problem? ”
“ Not much. Most at least understand either Dutch or English and the Internet is definitely multi-lingual.”
“Are you Dutch?” Selma’s curiosity had been piqued.
“No. My name is Amir Jarash. I’m Egyptian, born and raised in Cairo. Came here to get away when the Muslim Brotherhood took over. They were hunting down and killing Coptic Christians. It looked like a good time to get the hell out of Cairo.”
“Your English is very good, Amir.”
“Yeah. Egypt has been under remote control by the Brits for a long, long time, but thanks anyway. Stool number three is open. Hurry up and sit down before one of these refugees thinks his number is up.”
“Right. OK. Give us a couple of hours. We need information and a place to stay.”