turns out the world isn’t watching

abughraib.jpg

i got through security at laguardia pretty quickly this morning and headed to gate 4 for my 9:48 flight to the cleve for another day of marathon meetings.  i grabbed a couple of bananas and water at au bon pain and settled into my seat at the gate.i looked around and noticed that it wasn’t overly crowded, which isn’t exceptional, but i did see a rather large family traveling together- about 8 to 10 people in all, clearly muslim and clearly traditional.  now, i know what you might be thinking, but that isn’t where this going. 

also at the gate?  a soccer mom-esque forty-something with her yappy, yippy lap dog.  she laid a diaper and a toy or two on the floor, put her doggy down and held the leash down with her foot to keep the dog nearby. 

now, gate 4 in the continental terminal is not that big, not that that fact should have given license to soccermom to be so oblivious.  her dog was roaming about as dogs do- exploring, sniffing, nipping.  now, i don’t like lapdogs much, but this is nothing you can fault the dog for; it’s what they do. 

what can be faulted here is that this was making the family very, very uncomfortable.  a couple of the younger women quickly got up and moved as far away as possible within the confines of the gate, while the father sat quietly, if warily, across from me.  seeing that soccermom (let’s just shorten that to “sm.”) was not taking note of the fact that her dog was causing several people genuine distress, i clicked my tongue and snapped my fingers and called the dog over to me before she could reach dad.

i leaned over and got sm’s attention, hoping she’d raise her head and take some heed of her charge, and asked the puppy’s name.  “aria” she replied.  “very cute” i said and petted her white, nappy head.

now, i love dogs, but not yippy little poodles, and certainly not before i’ve had a cup of coffee.  but i was uncomfortable and facing a ridiculous dilemma.  does sm not know that letting aria roam about is inappropriate regardless of the deep religious objection of several of her fellow passengers?  do i stay out of it as it’s none of my business?  is it really not a big deal and i’m being overly culturally sensitive? 

not wanting to be a condescending jerk and assume that sm is ignorant and needs to have the situation explained to her and convinced that the family was sincerely uncomfortable, i encouraged aria to keep chewing on my laptop.  after a couple of minutes more, i leaned over to sm and said “excuse me.  i’m not sure if you know this, but dogs make muslims uncomfortable and there are several people in this gate that would probably appreciate it greatly if you kept aria a little closer to you.” 

she said “whaaaat?”  i replied “yes, in islam dogs are considered very unclean, somewhat like pigs in judiasm and your dog is making some people very uncomfortable.  i’m not sure where you’re sitting or if it matters, but it might be a good idea to rein in the leash a bit out of courtesy.” 

sm “oh, yes.  i had no idea.  thank you.”

a beat.

she puts her head back down, goes back to the paper and does nothing about anything.  i saw aria approaching the man across from me yet again, so i hooked her collar and pulled her over to me.  the man said to me “i’m sorry, but in my religion….”  i said “i know, i’m sorry.”  he said ” i saw you trying to have a conversation.” i said “yes, i understand how you feel and i tried to explain.  i’m sorry.  i’ll do what i can to keep her over here.”  he nodded and said “thank you,” both of us completely uncomfortable and neither of us sure why we felt weird for a situation that was neither of our doing.

finally, boarding was called and “mommy” gathered her baby up to board.

i’m no cultural guru and i’ve never read the koran.  but i know that dogs are anathema to islam.  i grew up with several muslims, but didn’t know this until the disgrace that was abu ghraib.  wasn’t everyone, regardless of their hawk-like outward disposition, at least fleetingly, momentarily, humanely and humanly embarassed by the events and photos that came of that iraqi prison?  even for a second?  did that not command attention, even away from britney (sp??) and k-fed’s divorce, or whatever other sensational nonsense was absorbing the lion’s share of the nation’s consciousness at the time? 

i hate being embarassed by my nationality.  liberal guilt is patronizing and ignorant.  but this hit something home: a lot of people are ignorant, selfish assholes. 

i like to think that’s a universal trait, rather than an arena in which america corners the market.  and deep down i know that to be so.  but some days it’s hard. really, really hard to believe. 

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2 Responses to “turns out the world isn’t watching”


  1. 1 isosceles 10 August, 2007 at 15:13

    i later found out there are two reasons for dogs being unwelcome in islam. one is that they, like pigs, wallow in filth, lick themselves, etc.

    the other is that they’re thought to frighten away angels and so are bad luck to have around.

  2. 2 rml 12 August, 2007 at 00:15

    1- Isosocles is totally right on.

    2- What was a DOG doing in an airport terminal????

    3- The ‘sm’ is no different from many inhabitants of the city in which I live: they are all completely narcissistic and do not give a ____ about anything or anyone but themselves!

    4- Dogs are the only animals who are routinely agressive to humans; why do we put up with them?? They are filthy, primitive predatory animals.


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truth

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

truth

Upon common theatres, indeed, the applause of the audience is of more importance to the actors than their own approbation. But upon the stage of life, while conscience claps, let the world hiss! On the contrary if conscience disapproves, the loudest applauses of the world are of little value - john adams
July 2007
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from the man who taught me everything:

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