Working day in day out with a more or less the same bunch of people, and you become privy to whole load of information that you never really asked for, and which your actual intimacy and affection does not warrant. The exact hour our periods started. How many hours we slept last night. And the night before. Son has difficulty pooing. Daughter only does her highlights in one particular salon in Toronto. Sister has shizophrenia. Husband does not like watching sex scenes in movies- makes him uncomfortable. Wheat gives us diarrhea. Our stomachs rumble and make funny sounds as we lean across each other shoulders to look into computers and at documents together. We cough and forget for an instant to cover our faces. We find each others’ hairs strewn across workstations. Yes, Gentle Reader, work does get done, but amid a sea of human interactions and physicality. We are humans, after all. And one thing we all do with pretty much reliable frequency is burp.
Anyway, today I found myself in the midst of an absolutely crazy, indeed surreal conversation trying to describe Iranian new year traditions to a young co-worker. As she stared at me with round blue eyes growing rounder and rounder -“seven things starting with the letter ‘S’? Like what? Why ‘S’?” she sputtered on her tea, choked, and just as I was reciting the seven things starting with ‘S’ “vinager…coins…sumac…” she gave a huge burp. Effectively burping all over the fetishized ‘Seven Ss’ of Iranian tradition.
The poor thing went red with shock and embarrassment- she had after all burped on the highlight of our traditions- and a multicultural Canadian! while I suppressed a hysterical desire to scream with laughter and roll on our office floor. But I did not want to distress her more. Nor did I want her to think I was offended or that I felt she had disrespected the seven “S”s. It was a tense, delicate moment of political correctness and truth. I pursed my lips together in effort to stop laughing, and my eyes watered from the effort. I pretended I hadn’t heard her gigantic burp, and continued with the list- an equally gigantic act of concentration “…a dried fruit called senjed…apples…goldfish, although they don’t begin with ‘S’… ” “So why is it included then?” “I don’t know- they’re the symbol of life, I think…” “And what does sumac symbolise?” “I don’t know…” The ghost of the burp lingered in our conversation. I cursed our ancestors for coming up with such crazy complicated traditions, and cursed polite Canadians for taking a polite interest in it. The conversation continued on, sounding absolutely insane “…and a book of Hafez poetry- we love Hafez and use him to predict the future…”