Thursday, October 30, 2008

Disgruntled & cosmopolitan

It's job application-mailing season here at the Palmer house, which means we've been spending a lot of time at the post office. I don't know if the workers there get repetitive stress disorder from scratching their butts all day or what, but the line tends to move pretty slowly. Today, spending 25 minutes in line gave me a lot of time to think about what stamps I wanted to buy. I was tempted by Frank Sinatra and also 1950s cars, but I eventually decided on Eid stamps. The holidays are close enough, and you have to admit, it's a good-looking piece of postage:



Little did I know it would be a major conversation piece once I got up to the window to talk with a postal employee.

Post Office Lady: Would you like any stamps today?
Me: Yes, actually. Some of the Eid ones (and I make a weird calligraphy-like gesture with my hands for some reason).
Post Office Lady: (shuffles to the back to get them, and takes her sweet time, I might add.) These are just beautiful stamps.
Me: Yes. Yes they are.
POL: But people just don't buy them! There's a lot of prejudice out there.
Me: Well, we buy them, at least.
POL: So do I! I think they're so pretty. It almost looks like a Christmas tree.
Me: Uh-huh.
POL: You know, this branch didn't even used to stock these stamps. But now we have a new director.
Me: Oh.
POL: Yeah, she's a lot more cosmopolitan.

This conversation gave me a lot to think about. Do you have to be cosmopolitan to appreciate a postage stamp, even if it is for Eid? Are there really people out there who take the time to be prejudiced against a stamp? Was the fact that this branch didn't carry the stamp a decision by the (non-cosmopolitan) director, or was it because of all the rampant prejudice out there and they were just responding to demand?

And perhaps more importantly, does this stamp look like a Christmas tree?

12 comments:

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Eid is one of my all-time favorite stamps. I'm glad to know they now come in 42 cents, because I still have a few left from last year which have to be coupled w/ a Tiffany lamp one cent. A Christmas tree? No, the Eid stamp reminds me of those richly illuminated medieval Arabic manuscripts I've seen in some museums.

Jeremy Palmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Palmer said...

During our sojourn in Moscow one of my fellow employees made some sort of allegation to the effect that the FBI should watching me because I had studied some Arabic. He was mostly joking, but there is a certain quantifiable stigma in his words.

Some punk student at BYU caused a shenanigan by writing some Arabic conjugations on the ground with chalk. We know they were conjugations because the police were called to come check it out. They eventually found an Arabic speaker who informed them that it was, in fact, Arabic grammar practice and not an Al-Qaeda training manual. This example illustrates that it is not necessarily a language people should fear, but those who try to learn it as adults. For what type of impudent fetcher out there would tag BYU's sacred grounds?

It is amazing to me that many Americans are frightened by the mere appearance of an orthography. How odd. Perhaps I should use that on the bus if I am ever in a tight spot, "back up homey or I'll scribble some Arabic all up in yo face."

Liz Johnson said...

My grandmother (bless her sweet heart) was sending out Christmas cards about 10 years ago with the help of my mom and sister. My mom had bought some stamps that had two gingerbread men on them - one a sugar cookie, the other a gingerbread cookie. My grandma made my mother take them back and exchange them for stamps that "don't promote interracial marriage." She was offended to the core. Granted, my grandma was always known to be a tad racist, but geez!

And yeah, if you mention it... it looks a little like a Christmas tree. But I wouldn't have thought that without squinting and being told to look for it.

Jeremy, I admire your dedication to keeping your family safe.

Bridget said...

Jeremy has been writing formal academic proposals for so long that he doesn't know how to tone it down for my blog. Sheesh!

An account of the BYU sidewalk chalk terrorism is here.

Liz, your grandma sounds kind of like my grandma. Grandma, are you reading this?

Shannan said...

I'm not quite sure what Eid is - is that bad?

Anyway I don't think this applies to you, but thought I would mention it. I absolutely H-A-T-E going to the post office. Salem's post office must be a fun hangout for the older crowd because they are always there congesting the line and want to chat with you for the 30 minutes you're waiting. So I figured out how to usps.com and I've been happily printing out my own postage at home ever since. all you need is your debit/credit card. priceless!

p.s. you can also order stamps online too.

Anonymous said...

I love the Eid stamps! One time, some years ago, a post office employee suggested them to me because she saw that I was mailing an application packet for an Arabic program, and thought I might be interested. Another time, however, I requested the Eid stamps, and the employee who "helped" me that day glared and told me that those weren't the prettiest stamps.

Hannah

Anonymous said...

I would have chosen the Frank SINATRA stamp....:-)

Francesco

Susanne said...

The tale of the interracial gingerbread stamps was hilarious. I literally laughed out loud at that comment! :-D :-D :-D

I just assumed Eid was a Muslim holiday and since I'm not a Muslim, I wouldn't buy them. Not out of stamp prejudice, but simply because I don't "believe in" Islam. Since my friends celebrate Christmas, I generally choose Christmas stamps. Now I know that Eid is also used for Arab Christians (e.g. Eid al-milad)so maybe I could use them. Although I don't know what the Arabic writing says. Does it say "eid" or something else?

Bridget said...

The stamps says "Eid Mubarak" - Happy Eid. Jeremy pointed out that THE Eid is actually at the end of Ramadan, which only rarely falls within the "holiday season," but I think these stamps are meant to have wider applicability. If I recall correctly, Christmas can be called Eid (at least, Christmas Eve can be "leilat el-Eid"), and as Susanne said, it can be used for birthday, too.

I don't know. I just think it's a pretty stamp. I'm a sucker for Arabic calligraphy, I guess.

Susanne said...

Bridget, oh thanks for telling me the name for Christmas Eve in Arabic. I got Eid al-milad from my Syrian friend - just yesterday, in fact. *I* have no idea. He just told me that it was the "holiday of the birth" according to the Arab Christians. His family, of course, celebrates the 2 Muslim holidays. I didn't see Jeremy's post about THE Eid after Ramadan. Maybe that is the one that was deleted. :-)

Hareega said...

Yes, I always refer to Christmas or Easter or my own borthday as Eid, it roughly means a celebration in Arabic.

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