x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The recession-riddled space cadet

It's official. I'm an idiot. A moron. A recession-riddled space cadet. This is what I keep telling myself over and over again. And for good reason.

It's official. I'm an idiot. A moron. A recession-riddled space cadet. This is what I keep telling myself over and over again. And for good reason. For one, I can't stop ordering two lunches. I've done that twice in three days now, spending double the amount I normally would. Why? In last week's column I know I said I was hungry, but a foot-long sandwich and a tuna niçoise salad? I was the laughing stock of the office. I eventually palmed off the unwanted salad to an unsuspecting associate, but then managed to sell it for a Dh5 loss. What was I thinking? Nothing, that's what.

If you hadn't noticed or, like me, continually forget we're in the middle of a financial hurricane, economic volcano, toxic asset-filled financial fulcrum or whatever overused expression you want to choose to describe the times we're living in, then you should be telling yourself the same thing. Repeatedly. Either that, or you're a young Botswanan stock market trader who has just received a huge brown envelope stuffed with pulas after a good day's work at the bourse. That market is up 17.8 per cent this year compared with the Dubai Financial Market's 66 per cent slump. The sun must be shining 24 hours a day in Gaborone.

Meanwhile, back at home, I've had an ever-present black cloud floating over me all week and I can't seem to stop the raindrops from falling on my head. If I threw a dice right now it would land on zero - that's how unlucky and foolish I'm feeling. And it's all come at completely the wrong time. Everyone say ahhhh. Then again, don't - it's all my fault. Banks may have stopped lending and property companies may have stopped building, but I can't stop making schoolboy errors. No pulas for me.

Twenty-four hours after over-ordering on the food front, I found myself in a large French-owned hypermarket navigating the hordes in an attempt to find the cheapest tent possible for the following weekend's camping trip to Oman. The "how can I help you" blue T-shirted sales assistant pointed me to the bargain rack. "Yes! At last!" I was, or so I thought, actually in - rather than out of - luck. Dh22 for the discount UAE equivalent of a Mongolian yurt. Perfect, I'll take it.

Half an hour later, I sat down, shattered from shopping, only to find myself asking the bartender for a refreshment. Then came the bill - Dh52. "Excuse me?" I questioned, taking another look at the receipt. "That's almost three tents?" I added. "That'll be Dh52 please," he replied, looking me up and down as if I had just escaped from a maximum security asylum. And guess what? Like a freshly lobotomised lab rat, I paid every last fil.

To top it all off, there was the now-infamous business card incident, which for the purposes of this exercise I will recount, but instantly want to forget. Upon arriving at a recent business function I accidentally entered a colleague's corporate identity into a prize draw. Out of the 20 cards in my wallet I managed to ludicrously scoop out the one and only 3.5-centimetre piece of laminated card that had someone else's name and number printed in bold type and proceeded to dim-wittedly place it in a glass bowl. Two hours later, a rather attractive model plucked said piece of paper from the dish only to announce the winner of two business class tickets to a faraway exotic destination was my colleague - who wasn't even present. As a famous Jamaican-born deadlocked reggae singer once said: "it wasn't me".

Why, oh why? I'll tell you why, and fortunately, I might not be so stupid after all. Just careless. As much as we think the global recession is seeping into everyday life here, we are in fact still acting out our own personal lives and our finances as if nothing had happened. Despite high food and drink prices, we are still being frivolous; despite rising debt and a liquidity squeeze we are still spending more than we have; and despite the large majority of the world's indexes falling faster than a heavyweight wrestler without a parachute we are still pumping our money into plummeting stock markets. Certainly, in the short term and as long as we continue to be spoilt here, I'm not sure that will ever end. Still, that doesn't excuse plain stupidity.

"Sorry, what was that? Yes, I think I'll have two large-sized meals today, please." jbennett@thenational.ae