Yesterday I left the highly-westernized capital city of Tehran and headed out to the province of Yazd, famous for its ancient water systems, Zoroastrians and carpets. You shoulda seen me. I was absolutely WALLOWING in carpets.
Once upon a time, I used to work for a lawyer. My job was to write personal injury settlement briefs -- and I was good at it too (writing settlement briefs is an awful lot like writing soap opera) so when the bus I was riding on in Yazd got hit by a car, I was really interested to see how Iranians handled this type of stuff. Here's how it went:
First our driver got out and talked with the other driver. "Your bus deliberately hit me," she cried.
"That couldn't be," replied our driver. "I was standing still." Upon being confronted with this new information, however, the other driver did the obvious thing -- she whipped out her cell phone and called her boyfriend. And in the meantime, four or five male bystanders had come over to try to help out a lady in distress. So. Confronted with four or five wannabe-Lancelots and the prospect of an angry boyfriend about to arrive on the scene, our bus driver suddenly decided that there hadn't been all that much damage done to his bus after all.
"Why don't you just call the police and let them sort it out -- and then you'd have a traffic report and everything," I advised. Then everyone, even the boyfriend, just turned and looked at me like I was stupid at that point.
Next I went to "Fazeli Iran Carpet", a carpet store run by a Zoroastrian family, and got shown a ton of rugs -- really really high quality rugs. I couldn't afford to buy any of them but did take a ton of photographs, which made me feel much better.
Afterward, I went over to the Yadz bazaar and found a rug that was more in my price range -- $20.
"But you can't buy that rug!" exclaimed the Iranian I was with. "It's made in China!" In Yadz, the carpet capital of the world, buying a machine-made rug is just about as low as you can get. Hey, I'd LOVE to buy a hand-made tribal carpet. They are true works of art. But get real. It's not gonna happen. But how would I be able to get my Chinese rug home?
I just finished reading Ann Tyler's book, "Searching for Caleb". And now I'm out searching for a rug I can afford and can also lug home from Iran. The rug I am searching for must have a wonderful tribal design, have 166 knots per square inch, have its wool hand-dyed with pomegranet juice, fit the area of my daughter Ashley's living room perfectly, be easy to ship home and cost less than $20. Oh, and it would be nice if it could fly.
Then I got back on the bus, went off to to a mosque and talked with an Imam. "Will you pray for peace between America and Iran?" I asked him.
"Of course I will," replied the Imam. "However, it may not be necessary. As soon as the election is over and there is a new president, hostilities between Iran and America will no longer be a problem." That's interesting. But was the Imam talking about the upcoming election between Ahmadinejad and Khatami -- or was he talking about the election between Obama and McCain? Perhaps he was hinting that when both Iran and America get rid of leaders who love being bellicose, then the rest of us will finally be able to enjoy a little peace and quiet (and peace dividends) for once.
At breakfast, I talked with another Iranian about the upcoming Iranian presidential election scheduled for next May. "Do you think that Khatami will win over Ahmadinejad?"
"I don't even think that Ahmadinejad will even run," answered the Iranian. "He's not very popular right now and he knows that he won't get re-elected." Oh.
This morning when I turned on the news at my hotel, the BBC was going on and on about how the entire world was falling apart economically. Does this mean when I get home things are gonna be entirely changed and I'll find my poor sweet young daugher Ashley selling apples on the corner? Crap. I leave the country for just three little weeks and find that the whole place is falling apart without me!
PS: It's ironic that three of the four progressive news services that I subscribe to are not available over here in Iran. These services were influential in stopping Bush and McCain's hare-brained scheme to bomb Iran and yet access to them is denied? Bizarre. You can get OpEd News over here -- but not TruthOut, Smirking Chimp or the Huffington Post.