Random thoughts are random

Oh hai guyz. I just can’t seem to put any thoughts together into a coherent whole hey what was that noise you know I think my desk would work better in the other room. What?

Anyway, I’ve come off my twelve-hour day, and even though all it involved is sitting in an air-conditioned (actually, pretty refrigerated, so everyone has a space heater under their desks) office typing into into a keyboard and stapling papers together, it also involved me having to talk to people, not just in person but on the phone, which for some reason is more wearying than talking to them in person and I already find that a chore and a trial. So by the end of the day no matter how relaxed I started I end up by wanting to KILL ALL THE THINGS so yeah. And then I have to drive home on the roads of rural Virginia with the Virginia drivers who all have very important appointments with, I don’t know, their pigs or their tractors or something, so while I’m trying to chill out by admiring the pretty bucolic scenery and also not drive off the roads into a mess of cows and manure, they’re riding up my ass with their huge Dodge Dakotas.

So I was thinking. You know that thing where right wing bloggers start talking about “why aren’t there any” Asian or black or Hispanic people in some profession. Like, journalism, or investment banking. And then they link to an article with some stock photo off Stockphoto.com of a bunch of blond white people in a room, as if that were proof of anything. And it occurred to me why this irritated me so much was because it reminded me of a thing the boyfriend I had for about a year when I was trying out that normal heterosexual male/female thing did to me. He asked me “Why don’t you like to walk in the rain?”

Let me describe the scene where this took place. I’m sitting on the couch in the living room of the house we lived in with his parents. (He lived with his parents. No, I don’t think this means he was some sort of failure. Most people in the world think the way Americans expect children to move away from their families at a young age or any age to be bizarre and weird.) Anyway, I’m sitting on the couch, and reading something, and in general minding my own business and relaxing. Outside one of Central Florida’s apocalyptic rainstorms, complete with lightning and crashing thunder, is going on. Educational pause: Florida leads the nation, and probably the world, in lightning deaths. A lot of it is due to stupidity (no, in fact your golf cleats will not protect you from being hit by lightning) but lightning really is a danger. I’ve had lightning hit trees next to me as I was driving down the highway and my car was showered with hot blue sparks from the exploded trunk. I’ve lost a network card and usb port in a computer after lightning hit the supposedly protected cable box outside, which cable was connected to my computer. (I had been napping on the couch, because nothing relaxes me like violent storms. I slept through Hurricane Andrew, Charley, Irene, and Frances.) Anyway, in Florida it’s not generally a good idea to go for romantic walks in the rain… but that wasn’t even the issue.

What miffed me was the subject had never even fucking come up. We had never discussed walking in the rain, and we were the sort of pretentious hipsters that sneered at cheesy romantic things like walking in the rain and all those popular songs about walking in the rain. But still, it’s not even something we’d talked about, and I had no idea where this came from, and it really irritated me that he brought it up in such a classically passive aggressive when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife kind of way, and during an obviously dangerous storm where going out in the rain could actually get me killed.

That was the beginning of the end of the relationship, though it dragged on for a while after.

Anyway, this is what I think whenever I read my fellow tightey whiteys waxing supposedly wise about how this and that minority “doesn’t seem interested” in a certain profession or other and then attributing that non-interest to some brain inferiority (black people just can’t do journalism, which I guess is like nuclear physics only not easy) or some other pseudo-scientific evo-psych bullshit reason (“Asians aren’t individualistic enough to ask questions also blah blah face YELLOW SCARE SLY SLANT-EYED LIARS PARANOIA ARGH ARGH ARGH”). Never mind that there might be some very real obstacles in certain professions that rely on old-boy networks, knowing people who know people, secret handshakes and nepotism; in other words, there might be the equivalent of dangerous lightning storms keeping sensible non-white, non-upper-middle-class, non-part-of-the-club minorities from putting themselves through hell just so they can see their first column rewritten by some (white probably) editor into unreadable blandness, all the while being treated like some sort of interloper who “probably” got where you were through some sort of “unfair” quota system.

Not to mention which of course there are black journalists and Asian actors and so on and so forth, but what I don’t see is the fact that a real discussion ever took place. It’s just assumed such and such is the case and it must be due to so and so, while treating the actual supposed subject (minorities who are underrepresented in professions that upper-middle-class white people have chosen to elevate above all others, like journalist, politician, etc.) sitting on the couch being talked at like a child.

Anyway, that’s a thought I had.

Another thought is more something I realized, and that’s that when Western tourists go to supposedly poor, “backwards” “Third World” countries and then come back bragging about how they haggled “like a real native” in the markets there or for something else, that it’s not only incredibly rude and privileged (as if it mattered if a rich American paid five dollars instead of six for a rug that took months to weave), but probably makes said Western tourist look incredibly stupid. Or rather, reveals the stupidity of said tourist. Because, see, we don’t, in the West, in general, haggle for the price of everything. Yes, big ticket items like homes and cars are things you can negotiate the price of (and you are generally wise to do so), but everyday items, or even items that aren’t everyday but are just accessories, like rugs and trinkets, are something we just buy. Every once in a while there’s a chance you’ll get a bargain (a chair on clearance that you get a bit more off because there’s a stain you don’t really mind — I was able to buy a futon for 30 dollars off because it had a rip of about an inch long, which I didn’t care about because I had a cover), but really, we don’t do this showy haggling thing that we seem to think they do in those “exotic” foreign lands in all those “colorful” outdoor markets. So the result is we really have no experience in this sort of bargaining technique, and when most of us try it must literally hurt native-born experts who are forced to witness our clomping all over their centuries-old traditions (assuming this is even a culture that has such traditions and is not merely assumed to have them by some uneducated Westerner who learned everything about the Mysterious East from cartoons like Aladdin).

But that’s not all. The other insulting and stupid attitude I’ve seen and heard from a lot of my fellow Westerners who travel to Exoticastan and come back with a hold of loot (that they could have just bought off the internet but never mind) is that they have to do this sort of thing because if they don’t, they’ll be thought of as gullible tourists (and their otherwise perfect disguise will be broken!), and then those sly foreigners will take them for everything! Because you know how those people are. Sly and ever-eager to take advantage. I don’t even think I have to explain how utterly abhorrent this attitude is, especially coming from someone whose spare change found in the couch could feed a family of four in many countries.

So in short, if you find yourself in a bazaar in Marrakesh and really want that rug, and you’re a rich Westerner (and you are, don’t even argue), just pay the fucking asking price. Especially if it’s for something trivial like a trinket or a piece of cloth or a snack. I mean really.

Okay, I really need to work on this months thing I’m doing, which is another 50,000 worder for Campnanowrimo. I haven’t really done anything from November’s effort–it needs a lot of work, and I’m just not up to it now. Also I keep thinking of new stories. See you later.

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7 thoughts on “Random thoughts are random

  1. These ultra-haggler types are likely the same bozos who will waste $50 on research materials and $200 worth of their time to save $100 on the purchase of a new car and then remind you of it for the next year and a half.

    • It’s always something huge and unwieldy like a Cadillac Escalade, isn’t it. If they got a bargain on a Lotus, I might be impressed.

    • Considering what Florida looked like when they were done with us… I’ll let you fill in the rest.

  2. I don’t haggle, ever; I’m embarrassed enough at being a tourist. Haggling makes me think of Monty Python skits. Heh.

  3. I don’t have the personality to enjoy haggling, but some people aren’t worth dealing with unless you do. My girlfriend and I were in Egypt shortly before things fell apart there, and I had some idle thoughts about picking up a musical instrument as a souvenir. I could have bought a brand-new nicely-decorated oud at the Cairo museum for about 150 Egyptian pounds. A few days later, in a bazaar, I was offered an old and battered one for 900 Egyptian pounds. I ran into similar price disparities with blown glass bottles and other things.

    I bought a number of things on the trip, although not an oud (too difficult to carry around or to get back to the US). I didn’t haggle, because I don’t.

    The guidebook we had contained descriptions of a number of common scams that tourists can fall prey to. Someone tried to use one of those on us half an hour after we read about it.

    The only other middle-eastern country I’ve been in was Jordan (same trip), and the culture there (what I saw of it) was much more law-abiding, friendly, and less rapacious. Not everybody tourists meet in Egypt is a con man, but a high-enough proportion of the people I met there were that I can see where the “abhorrent” attitude comes from.

    • Rescued you from the spam queue. Anyway, I can see being careful about pricing and such, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that. It’s more like the idea some Western tourists seem to get that “ooh, I’m in a Middle Eastern or Asian country and you know Those People” — that would be the people who actually live there — “aren’t like Us, and one thing we have to do is haggle ‘cos I saw it on tv” or something. And they end up arguing with everyone everywhere — one thing I was told about by a person who is native to one of these countries is she’s seen Western tourists trying to dicker with the price of a meal which was already the equivalent of US$2.00. Man if you are so poor you can’t afford to pay two bucks for lunch you shouldn’t have gone abroad.

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