|So I just returned from a blissful two week adventure with Lady Truewit on the bottom half of the world. Everything you've heard is true. Heads in chests -- check. Giant feet used as sun-shades -- check. Prester John presiding over a paradise on earth -- check. Toilets flushing in the opposite direction -- not sure, actually. Consarned water conserving toilets don't really swirl in that hypnotic way American toilets do. That one has to be a myth in any case. Otherwise, there would be a toilet in Brazil or Kenya placed directly on the equator which, at the spring equinox, when the shadows at Stonehenge align and eggs balance on their ends and the snake climbs up the pyramid at Chichen Itza, would flush straight towards the sun. The equinoctial solar column toilet! Tell me it's there, and I'll worship it. |
The thing about travel to the Antipodes these days is that the voyage isn't quite as arduous as it used to be (though a six hour layover in Dallas is no treat, let me tell you). As a result, even though you just want to marvel at all the exotic antipodean creatures and document their savage customs, you also have to deal with a lot of familiar-looking people who walk on their feet and don't have heads in their chests. Let's call them "Americans." There they are, an exaggerated version of you, wearing white sneakers and shorts and cackling at the dog-headed barbarians you have come all this way to discover for the betterment of the commonwealth. Bad enough that they should blow your cover. Making matters worse, they bring with them an attitude towards your own occupation that reminds you of why life in the non-Antipodes (the Podes?) can be so annoying.
One evening, as we were sitting down to enjoy a meal of exotic meat, an American approached me. He must have been told of my profession by someone else at the inn, for with nary a salutation, he said to me, "You're a Shakespeare teacher, right?"
"That's right," I replied, warily eying his white sneakers and khaki shorts.
"Well then, what's your favorite Shakespeare quote? A friend of mine has some painted over his doorways, and I was just thinking about how many good quotes he has, and I figured you must know some really good ones. What's your favorite quote?"
I know this fellow adventurer was only trying to be friendly and express some sort of familiarity with what I do for a "living." You would think that in a land where up is down and left is right I would welcome his gesture of amiable interest. But I hate being asked this kind of question. Hate, hate, hate it. I am not one of those people who memorizes soliloquies, or even sonnets. I can barely remember the lyrics to "Like a Virgin," let alone six lines of pentameter from Coriolanus. Just not my thing. So while I could probably string together a few lines about to whose self one is supposed to be true or an aphorism about jealousy's diet and the color of its eyes, I cannot declaim off the cuff. Thus, when I am asked to, especially by some stranger in a restaurant, I get depressed. And who wants to be depressed in the Antipodes? On adventure? And who paints quotations from Shakespeare over doorways?
I suppose I should prepare something in advance for questions like this. But I just can't stomach preparing for ordinary conversation as if it were an oral exam or a job interview. That's cheating, right? You're just supposed to have immediate, effortless access to everything you need to know, especially when some dude from Calabasas is asking the questions. I told him I didn't have any favorites, which is true, and that I don't really have much memorized, which is also true, then started in on my dinner. He wandered off to be American with other Americans, and I was left to my meat. Some Antipodean waiter hopped over to me, water in the wine bottle, wine in the water jug, and from the mouth in the center of his chest, he whispered, "Not to be, or to be; that is not the answer." Delighted, I stuck my baseball cap on the top of his overhanging foot, put my arm around his shoulder-hips, and had my companion take a digital photo of us. I cackled hysterically while my barbarian waiter, from my perspective, smiled.