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Among our other things in storage were 3 carpets we bought during our time in Mauritania. None of them were all that expensive or unique, but they are pretty and we like them.

Naturally, after 2 years in a dusty garage, the carpets were filled with powdery dirt. We asked Ismail if he knew of a good carpet cleaning place. He recommended one, and Donn dropped off the first rug. “Come back in a week,” they said.

A week later, he went back. “It’s not ready; come back in 3 days,” he was told. This happened 3 more times.

Finally, 16 days later, he talked to Ismail about it. Ismail phoned his friends and then told him, “Go tomorrow at 4:00. It will be ready.”

At 4:30 or so, Donn showed up. The rug was not there. One of the men crawled into our car, and directed Donn on a merry exploration of the back streets of Takkadoum—round narrow corners, through tiny twisting alleys, etc. They stopped at a house to pick up another man, who directed them even father out.

Half an hour later, they stopped in front of a second house, and both men got out. “They’ve gone to explain to the people they sold it to why they want it back,” Donn joked to a friend who was with him. Sure enough, this time they emerged with the roll of carpet over their shoulders.

As they bumped back towards the dry-cleaning shop, Donn noticed the clouds of dust filling the air, coming from the “cleaned” carpet. “It’s not cleaned?” he said. “Yes, of course it is. It’s been washed and beaten well,” said the man. But it was evidently not so.

Upon being confronted with the indisputable evidence of a small pile of Mauritanian sand, the man admitted it had not been washed. He offered to keep the rug again for an indeterminate period of time, but Donn declined. He also, somewhat optimistically, felt that we should pay him for storing our rug for 17 days, but again, Donn declined.

Now the rug hangs over the balcony. Donn has bought carpet cleaner, and we’re trying to sell the kids on the idea of a little beating for a good cause.

July 2009

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