Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Office Space

If you happened to be strolling past my office anytime my officemate Irina was speaking, you'd probably hear one of two phrases, in a strident Russian tone. The themes of our office are: "Is such a disgrace," and "I don't know, Syuzan."

Irina is the original Russian contrarian, and a warning to all desperate middle-aged men who think that they can secure in a Russian bride a compliant and submissive wife: you are in for a deliciously brutal slice of karma pie. She is one ornery cuss. The woman will not agree with anything. It is impossible to have the most elementary conversation, say, about where to go for lunch, because she will probably disagree with lunch, with the notion that we have to go anywhere, and the deli choices that have been criminally obscured by anti-Russian bias in western media.

Irina is a strident opponent of Bush. He is, as you can imagine, huge disgrace. Any mention of his name puts a lemon-sucking grimace on her face. But she refused, refused to vote in our last election. I cajoled, I coaxed, I wheedled, I ranted. But the Iron Lady could not be swayed. "Why, Irina? Why?"
"Because," she sniffed. "Boosh is most terrible president you ever had, and still this guy Kerry can only get 50% support. He is huge disappointment, he should have 80%. This is terrible campaign. I cannot vote for him."
"But Irina, did you vote for Al Gore?"
"Yes of course."
"Did you think he ran a great campaign?"
"No. But this Boosh is so terrible. I don't know Syuzan. I am afraid I cannot vote."

I won't even get into our debates over Ukraine and Yushchenko, which she mantains is all a manufactured Western plot, of course. The only One, True, Spontaneous revolution took place in Moscow in 1991 ("I know, Syuzan, I remember") and it has failed as all others will fail.

Her contrarian ways struck yet again today, when we were discussing the huge disgrace of Alabama shedding its image as a racist backwater by voting to keep language endorsing school segregation in the state constitution. (I also wondered why: apparently, removing the language would have involved guaranteeing their students an education, which we know is dangerous territory for Alabama. Also: taxes. And probably homosexuals somehow.)

Okay, here we go:

Irina: I cannot believe you have unconstitutional law on the books in this state.

Me: I'm surprised too. I guess they just left the law intact and unenforced. But the Supreme Court did make them desegregate, no matter what their constitution said.

Irina: mmmm. I don't know, Syuzan.

Me: You don't know what? If they desegregated?

Irina: Yes. I don't know.

Me [fed up] : Irina. Alabama was desegregated. It was kind of a big deal. George Wallace. National Guard. Okay? They did. This is not up for debate.

Irina: Yes, but I don't know, Syuzan. Is very segregated now I hear.

Me: Yes of course, but not by law and anyway AAARRRGGGGHHHH

The only way to make her stop is to start singing the Soviet National Anthem. Girl goes ballistic. Between Irichka and blogging, probably I will be fired.


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