I was in Phoenix in 2007 when my friend Guy in a UNLV Jacket’s wife was visited by a good friend from her native Botswana. The friend (I cannot remember her name at this point) complained after eating at an airport restaurant that she didn’t like American food. “An airport restaurant isn’t going to give you a good example of American food”, Guy tells her. “We’re going to have to take you out for tacos.”
Tacos. . . American food. At first I laughed but the more I thought about it it made sense. Mexican cuisine has become a significant part of the American foodscape for at least as long as I’ve been alive (yes foodscape is a real part of the English lexicon because I don’t feel like looking up culinary vocabulary.) Not only is Mexican food legitimately part of American culture, it has largely (especially in the case of the Tex-Mex variety) evolved as something distinctly different from the original cuisine of Mexico itself. Tacos are at least as American as apple pie and now, with the advent of a truly multicultural United States, if you want truly exotic cuisine you don’t think Mexican, you think Korean or Indian.
I recently made the acquaintance of a Saudi student who eats at the restaurant where I work every day. At first I thought it was because it’s middle eastern food which would make it kind of like home but then it occurred to me that it might also be because we exclusively use meat that is butchered according to Islamic standards. When I asked her if she only eats at restaurants that serve halal meat she replied in the affirmative. “That means you’ve never eaten Mexican food?” She replied that she had not. That seemed to be incredibly sad. The next time I saw her after she greeted me I said “Sooooo if I made Mexican food with halal meat you would eat it?” She smiled and said yes. I said “I should make Mexican food with halal meat and I’ll bring you some.” Her eyes kind of widened in awe and she said “That is so nice!” Yes that’s me, Mr. Nice Guy.
I might be a cultural ambassador of tacos. I’m thinking shredded beef, Spanish rice, and guacamole.
I was talking to this Saudi customer at work who wears hijab and eats there every day. I asked her (in Arabic) what her name was. She said “Fatimah” and I was like “:D” and she was all like “????”. What are the chances. Pretty high actually, it’s a popular name but still. She was impressed with my Arabic language skills. Working there is fun!
This is not a post about what a nice guy I am for fixing my co-worker’s computer. It’s a post about the efficiency of trading expertise.
I have a 19 year old co-worker from Iraq who has about half a year’s worth of English language skills under his belt. A few months ago he bought a laptop which he began using prolifically to (what else?) use Facebook, access music, and do whatever else it is that the average young adult does with the internet. One day, however, the computer became virtually unusable. “Computer fucked up man”, he said dejectedly. Apparently he had resigned himself to the fact that his once beloved laptop was now useless and there was nothing to be done. Apparently he had no idea who the fuck I was.
“I don’t work Tuesday” I said, “but I will come in to work. Bring your laptop. I will fix it.” He appeared doubtful at first although I assured him I knew what I was doing. His doubt quickly changed to hope and on the designated day I came in to work, created a little work station for myself, and proceeded to do my thing.
He thought it was a virus. As I suspected it was really just a shitload of malware along with some debilitating toolbars and addons. When I first opened up a web browser other tabs started popping open on their own with a lethal quickness. I can only imagine the difficulty he had trying to troubleshoot a computer with a lack of experience and a language barrier. What was next to impossible for him was simple for me and after disabling the addons and toolbars, uninstalling the malicious programs that come bundled with intentional downloads, and installing and running anti-malware, I got the computer running once again in good condition.
I returned the laptop to my co-worker and pronounced the problems fixed. A couple of days later at work, he pulled me aside to thank me for the work and said the computer is running very well. “No problem”, I said. “I put two Arabic songs on your computer desktop. Did you see them?”
“Just listen to those songs and type the lyrics for me in Arabic script. That’s all I want in return.”
He laughed but I assure him that this will be a big help to me. I’m good at reading Arabic but absorbing and understanding it verbally is still something of a problem. What I traded with this guy was my ability to troubleshoot his laptop, which he couldn’t easily afford if I charged him money, for his expertise at Arabic language which would have cost too much for me if I had to pay an actual language specialist. This is yet another example of how trade is not a zero sum game.
I saw her again. . . . like 2 days ago. Yay!
Ever see the most beautiful chick on the face of the earth and she speaks to you and you smile but every time she looks at you you have to look away for fear that you’ll instantly turn into a pile of ashes if you look into her eyes? Yeahhhhh so that happened to me today. I don’t see her that often but no matter how often I do it never gets old.
A co-worker’s last day is today so I gave her the blog address and told her I would repost an old blog entry. Instead I will post a link to it. Click here to see a blog entry from when commenters still existed. To be honest the comments were sometimes more interesting than the actual blog entries.
A Time.com article about Obama meeting Malala Yousafzai check the comments section.
When they first came out with those emergency alert commercials geared toward seniors and the disabled I used to laugh when they showed and elderly person on the ground. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Lots of laughter and we now had a new catchphrase with which to assail people. Some people would admonish me, however, and told me to be careful what you make fun of. “Something like this could one day happen to you or someone you care about”, they would say sagaciously. I disregarded all that talk about karma as I thought life doesn’t keep a ledger and balance things out, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens.
Then one day something happened. My sixty-something year old mother fell down the stairs when she was home alone. Her femur was broken and she was unable to get to the phone. Fortunately I arrived a couple of hours after the accident. I immediately called an ambulance. The entire experience was traumatic for me as my mother required hospitalization and surgery to implant a metal rod (horns!) in order to reattach bones. Seeing the helpless look in my mother’s eyes as she was being prepped for surgery reversed things for me. When I was a child I was the helpless one who required reassurance. Seeing my mother now in that position changed that perspective. In short it was an eye opening experience.
Thankfully she made a full recovery and is back to walking around even better than before. Now when I see those life-alert commercials with the fallen seniors I still crack up because they’re funny as hell. Seriously it’s hard to think of anything funnier than a fallen senior commercial unless if they were to turn it into a Snickers commercial and be like “Not going anywhere for a while?” In summation, hell yeah!
I pretty much stopped blogging when I stopped working in a State office. When I was a slave to my cubicle blogging was a welcome respite from the hum-drum of data entry, computer troubleshooting, or whatever it was I used to do. Then for years I had all the time in the world but what’s the fun of blogging when you can be wiping in WoW raids or playing America’s Army? I pretty much stopped writing altogether although I would still scan current events in search for bloggable material. Alas, nothing really struck me mostly because although I still found subjects for which I held strong beliefs, I hardly cared to attempt to sway public sentiment. I got my public library card in good standing and spent time reading various books and learning Arabic for fun.
Along the way I’ve lost the audience I used to have which is a blessing in disguise. At the height of my blog’s popularity with my small coterie of other bloggers and random commenters my posts came to be less about serious subject matter and I reverted to being the class clown. I began to self edit in order to not offend the political sensibilities of the myriad types that frequented my blog and that became the deathknell for true self-expression. Now that no one reads this blog anymore it seems I can say what I really think because pretty much no one else is going to read this but me unless someone happens upon this blog my accident by googling pictures of Amy Lee. So what is it that I really think?
I don’t desire the kinds of things that others find so important. I desire only enough money to not have to worry about the exigencies of life. I don’t have or want a car. It’s too much trouble, they always break down, I don’t know how to fix cars. I don’t care to learn. Cars interest me about as much as blenders. It’s cool if one is available but I can live without one. I finally (and reluctantly) got a cell phone this year so I would be locatable in case I’m needed for a surprise shift at work. It’s a very basic and archaic cell phone. I don’t want a nicer one. If I had more money I would buy a new computer. That’s about the extent of what I desire materialistically. I’m not ascetic. I don’t think materialism is a moral failing, I just don’t care that much for things. I love my kids and I want them to love me too.
I like working and being proficient at what I do. I like the people I work with although I don’t talk to them too much. At one point I started telling some of the more outrageous stories of stuff that has really happened to me like the subject matter in my “the day that” category and they thought I was hilarious. Then I stopped telling those stories because I was aware that many of those stories are hard to believe and I didn’t want them to think I was making stuff up. Once I was drinking with a co-worker and I began speaking in the manner in which I blog. My co-worker told me to stop using big words so I reverted to speaking in a more normal fashion. I wasn’t even using really tough words either. I think I used the words “malignant” and “conversely”. One would have thought I was speaking in braille.
I like working at the middle eastern restaurant. The other day I invented my own sandwich with garlic sauce, onions, chicken kabob, basmati rice, and fetta cheese. This customer was all like “ooh I want one of those!” We made her one even though that particular combination is not on the menu. That was win.
There have been times in my recent history when life has dealt me setback after calamity in such short order that I assessed my situation and was compelled to ask myself what have I done to deserve this? I’m basically a good guy or at the very least I can say I’m not malevolent so I can say that when people act with ill-will against me I’m honestly stymied. Sometimes, however, the ball bounces the other way and I’m happy to report that I’ve been the beneficiary of a string of blessings, one after the other recently, that have stunned me to humility and again I find myself asking what I have done to deserve this. It is my general inclination to work hard, avoid confrontation, and hope for the best which of course should yield good results but the latest, the fact that I have finally reconnected with my youngest son Bilal, leaves me at a loss for words. They literally have not yet invented the words for me to express have I feel.
This blog has fallen into disuse and is virtually unread as of late so it doesn’t matter that I have broken a cardinal rule of my own which is that I don’t mention family members by name here. The official particulars of why I hadn’t seen my youngest two in such a long time I will not get into other than to say the reasons were primarily financial and geographical. I will say that I’m extremely pleased to see that Bilal types grammatically and intelligently and that he seems to have manifested the best attributes of both of his parents.
Whatever drama or grievances that existed between his mother and me are entirely irrelevant, pointless memories from a bygone era. What matters now is that, deservedly or not, I seem to have been given a chance to claim something utterly invaluable that I once thought was lost to me forever. In my darkest moments I cursed my fate, wallowed in emotional anguish, and wondered WTF? Now, as things have quickly and inexplicable seem to have turned around, I praise the heavens, smile at the stars and again wonder WTF?
(See, I told you the words hadn’t been invented yet)