I had arrived at the Byblos Hotel in Tecom, Dubai, and found my way to the Korean restaurant and karaoke bar. I told the bouncer that I was joining a party already in attendance but I didn't have the name for the reservation. The bouncer suggested that I try Room 8. He opened the door. A sea of virtually identical faces, possibly a large family unit, stared challengingly at me. Someone was either singing or being brutally murdered within. I backed out carefully and closed the door. The bouncer then suggested Room 1, but I was done with the bouncer's suggestions. I reverted to my phone and sent out a text. A combination of text exchanges and the bouncer insisting that Room 1 was probably what I was looking for finally moved me in that direction just as a member of my group was about to come out and get me.
Fourteen people had RSVP'd for the event. Initially, seven had shown up. Buncha jerks! One person arrived later. It was me, another fellow, and five nubile young women who were dressed for a night on the town. So young! Perky, vivacious, so much squee! Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?
Suddenly I was the slightly creepy grandfather whom mom and dad drag the kiddies along to visit on holiday. This begat mum or dad? Ye hoary gods! The only thing lacking was the smell of mothballs (Note to self: purchase mothballs). Like Colonel Kurtz, I tactically withdrew into the deepest jungle and, from the darkest depths of an ancient stone temple, shining bald head gleaming in the shadows, I muttered, "The horror! The horror!"
Ah! Oh! Hey! Ooo! The karaoke machine was being molested gleefully as it cried out the numbered selections of the song list. I've heard spoken Korean. Koreans don't talk like this. If Justin Bieber spoke Korean perhaps he would sound like this karaoke machine.
The singing had already begun. The two youngest had seized the microphones and were trying out various tunes. Several copies of the song list were scattered about and it appeared quite comprehensive. I was shocked, however, not to find the Largo Al Factotum from Il Barbiere di Siviglia. That would have given everyone a run for their money!
Someone soon pitched me a slow, underhand ball right across the plate. Fly Me to the Moon. I groaned it out. I couldn't hear whether my microphone was working or not so I have no idea how tortuous it was. Let's face it, nobody in that room was getting past round one of Arab Idol, and of course no one was trying to.
Glasses of wine were in evidence and more were required. I stuck to sparkling water because I wanted to make an honest attempt at having some kind of voice. The crowd was aghast. At first people were running out of the room to flag down the waiter, accompanied by bellows of "SHUT THE DOOR!!" The waiter bell was quickly identified and songs were then interspersed with quick jabs to it. One can only imagine the poor schmo assigned to our room, listening to the caterwauling within, knowing that silence would immediately be followed by a buzz for service.
Several more classics were chosen for group participation, naturally including Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen. I sang the tenor and bass bits. Most everyone was off key and some were off tempo. When the singing became seriously out of sync with the flow of the highlighted words on the karaoke screen the typical solution was to instantly molest the keyboard again -- ee ay meow! -- and start another in the hit parade.
Before anybody knew what was happening, 10 pm and closing time rolled around. The bouncer came in to throw us all out. I noticed that he had a basso profundo so deep and complex that I wished we had invited him in to sing with us.
The bouncer had us do a perp walk down the narrow corridor which, due to some errant way-finding, ended up being the long and winding way round. The path was lined with restaurant staff. They looked resentful and I searched their hands for weapons, wondering if we were facing some sort of Korean restaurant initiation rite. Were we about to be beaten into a Korean karaoke gang? What would be our gang sign?
We escaped unmolested, however, and went to dinner.