Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ok, I’ve Been Busy

My company sent me on a business trip. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, things usually suck. Hey, the food is good and so is the company, but I’m in IT, not sales If I’m traveling, something’s either messed up, requires heavy lifting, or both. Enough about me.

I shared the plane ride with one of those orthodox Islamic female types. I spotted her early at the gate. Kind of hard to miss. Traditional garb, head to toe, like a woman wrapped in a drab tablecloth. She was reading out of a small prayer book. Very nicely done by the way, the pages looked like parchment covered in calligraphy. Nice leather binding, gold leaf edges, the whole thing screamed, “I’M IMPORTANT!” in a classically contradictory austere way. The one really remarkable thing about this woman was that she was younger than anyone of that faith that I have ever seen allowed out alone.

I settled in on the plane and noticed that she was one row back on the opposite side. The flight was one with complimentary cable TV. She had an unobstructed view of me, and my video monitor. As I was sitting, waiting for take off, I was thinking to myself, “Why would any woman take such a raw deal as fundamentalist Islam? What’s in it for them to live in such an asshole egomaniac-male oriented system? How brainwashed do you have to be to buy in to that cloistered, repressive life style?”

I decided to mess with this. I decided to revel in my freedom in plain sight of this slave to her religion. I ordered a Bourbon and settled for a Jack Daniels, rocks, and water on the side. I made a full production of it. I started with water to melt the overdose of ice. When the ice looked right, I dropped in half of the JD in and stirred until the amber lightened up a shade. You have to finish this first mix rather quickly, to keep the whiskey from getting too wet. If you do it right, you are left with a roughly equal proportion of ice and JD for the second round. I got it close enough. This mixture can be enjoyed more slowly; there isn’t enough water to do the whiskey any harm. I savored every bit of it and stopped just short of smacking my lips.

Time for a little TV. I surfed the channels, lingering any time I saw a love scene or women wearing high-fashion hot. I stopped for a while on a Red Carpet show. Eventually, I moved on to Comedy Central. They were showing a 20-year old predecessor to “Not Another Teen Movie!” It had all the players in the formula cast, the stuck-up privileged jocks, the nerds they pick on, and the near-suicidal proto-Goth druggie loners. Full house. A laugh riot. As I watched this deliberate train wreck unfold, I thought to myself, “how funny it is that diverse groups treat each other badly, create their own problems, and generally hate each other.”

I became dissatisfied with this satire of Western culture and moved on. This wasn't exactly the message I was trying to project. I probably should have mentioned by now that I was traveling on Halloween. All those love birds in the steamy sex scenes were now being slaughtered by various ghoulies. They were hacking and slashing with their weapon of choice, and generally making a blood orgy of all those non-virgin, unmarried horny teens.

I began to realize that this is the way that many of the less-traveled people of the world perceive our culture. All they know about us, they learned on TV, or from our movies. How can they judge how exaggerrated our satires are? What impression do people from other countries get from our endless plastic morality plays, horror flicks and action movies? What do they think about us, based on our apparent appetite for violence and superstitious gore? What do they see on our news channels except the very worst of our society? Nobody talks about the millions of us who work and go home and relax and do nothing with the family pet at our feet. Let’s include everyone in that last sentence. How many Middle-Eastern families just want to spend time together and live life? That’s not what makes news.

Sometime between the third rendition of Heineken’s commercial featuring Slut 2.0, the self-replicating fembot with built-in beer keg, and South Park, my Islamic traveling companion switched seats. She was directly behind me now, where she could no longer see my entertainment selections. It was then that I realized that American culture looks as mad to those that wish (for whatever reason) to live a sheltered life, as their lifestyle seems to some of us. Both opinions are correct.