#118 Breaking Curfew
Submitted by H.
Being an Expat Aid Worker is a lot like being a teenager. Along with the angst, horniness, and unfortunate susceptibility to bad skin & hair days, EAWs also have a fierce rebellious streak. They love to break curfew.
The first time it happens, it tends to be pretty innocent:
You’ve been at this NGO party for a couple of hours now and are close to finishing your fourth beer. That warm, fuzzy feeling has just settled in and you’re thinking about hitting the rum next. You’ve been flirting with this cute guy from Concern for the last twenty minutes and have lost track of both the time and the two colleagues you arrived with. Across the room you spot your counterpart from World Vision, reaching for another refill. If the Christians are still out, it can’t possibly be time to go home yet.
All of a sudden your friend (and more senior colleague) appears and says it’s time to go. She can be such a killjoy sometimes.
“We’ll go after this drink” you say, trying to play it cool.
“What time is your curfew?” asks Cute Concern Guy
You roll your eyes, embarrassed, and say, “Midnight.”
“Oh, our’s is 1am” he says with a slight smirk.
God he’s so cool.
“Go find Elise and I’ll meet you at the car” you say to your friend, giving her that intense ‘leave now’ stare.
“Fine,” she says, “but hurry up.”
You glance quickly at your phone. You have fifteen minutes to make it across town to your compound before curfew. There’s no traffic at this hour, so it’s totally doable. You decide to squeeze in a quick rum punch before leaving.
Another five minutes of awkward chit-chat later and Cute Concern Guy finally asks for your number. You give it to him, gleefully, then notice that the room just got a lot emptier. Panic starts to set in. Shit, you think. I should go. You down the rest of your sickly sweet punch, flash a coy smile to Cute Concern Guy, and run outside into total mayhem. Everyone else with a midnight curfew is scrambling to get home. It’s total Expat Gridlock. Some drunk dude from WFP is taking a leak in front of the exit, blocking the way out. You can’t remember where your driver parked the car or make out your agency’s logo amidst the sea of identical white landcruisers. Crap.
Finally, you hear your name being called out.
“Over here, c’mon!” your friend shouts.
You apologize profusely as you tumble into the back seat. The digital clock on the dashboard blinks “11:54pm”
“En Alle!” you exclaim to your driver, who does not look the slightest bit amused.
By this point, it’s obvious you won’t make curfew and so the process of rationalization begins:
“It’s not our fault there are so many cars here.”
“That clock is fast, my watch says its only 11:50.”
“I was ready to leave half an hour ago.”
“We’ll only be, like, ten minutes late.”
“How would anyone find out, anyway?”
“World Vision haven’t even left yet!”
You’ve barely made it half way home when the clock strikes midnight. That’s it, you did it. You broke curfew. God, this feels so exhilarating. You feel like a bad-ass Cinderella. You feel so alive. This is living life on the edge! Two police check points later, you finally roll up to your compound gate at 12:22am. You avoid making eye-contact with your security guard as you get out of the car. You struggle to fall asleep that night, the adrenaline (or is that the rum?) still pumping through your veins. What a night!
The rush you get from breaking curfew for the first time is like a gateway drug. After realizing how easy and fun it is, you slip into the habit of doing it more often. Suddenly all the rules seem flexible to you. You stay over at your friend’s house without getting clearance ahead of time. You decide to walk to the supermarket two streets down from your house, even though you know you’re not allowed to. You start to think that curfews are designed to be broken. If curfew is midnight, then it means you should be home by 1am. Or at least leave by 1am. If you get a ride home in a UN vehicle, then it doesn’t count at all and you can leave whenever you like! (Those guys break curfew all the time.) You are the ultra-cool, aid worker extraordinaire, taking destiny into your own hands. You make the rules.
Finally, the day comes when you get caught. The repercussions? A harshly worded email from your Security Manager sent to the all-staff mailing list.“This will not be tolerated.” You lay low for a few days, but then it all starts again, because as any rebellious teen will tell you, half the fun of breaking the rules is getting away with it.