Saturday, April 18, 2009

Number One with an F

Sat with linguists at lunch today and an Afghan gentleman stopped by the table. We all did the Salaam Alaikum shtick, I mean greeting. Once the pleasantries were exchanged, and the gentleman left, I told my lunch mates I had met this man a month or so ago, and that he had an interesting background.

When we met, he asked if I could help him get reassigned to another job, because he was not happy with his current position. He worked with detainees. He proceeded to rattle off his resume, and told me that in Afghanistan, he'd worked for the government in the 70's as a young man, before the Russians invaded. His résumé sounded pretty impressive.

When I shared this with my lunch mates, they looked at each other knowingly, smiled and said, "Almost all (linguists) claim to have worked with the Afghan Government; they tend to embellish their résumé so as to look good".

With that, the linguist asked if I had heard one of the reasons why Afghan-Americans think they are the best. I replied, "no".

He proceeded to share a story about an older Afghan couple who lived in the US. They purchased a car, something they could never have done in Afghanistan. So the old man drove their car from San Francisco, CA to Vancouver, Canada, to visit relatives.

After the trip, the wife was bragging amongst Afghan friends, and shared that her husband was a "number one" driver. When asked to explain, she said that on the trip to Canada, people who passed their car, constantly raised their middle finger at him, signifying he was "number one", which in their minds was an indication that the husband was a wonderful driver! I choked down my pie, nearly spitting it out! Again, these linguists and their sense of humor! Very solemn, serious and matter-of- fact usually, then BAM! out of the blue stuff like this.

When I return home to driving, and am on the road, I will henceforth associate the American middle finger "salute" with that old, proud, Afghan driver and his wife.

Teachers: How many times on your way to work, have you been given the "number one" salute? What a great opportunity to speak with your class about driving habits around the world. The insane vs. the sane. If you are working with HS age students, talk about requirements for driving throughout the world. What age can one start driving? Is there insurance in that country? How much do cars cost? What kinds of cars are there to drive? With the popularity of Social Media, consider having your class track down foreign students in other countries and ask them the above questions. Let your students do the research, and have them report their findings to the class.


  1. This sounds like a cool lesson. I don't know the answers to most countries. Cuba probably has '50's cars, but I think that's the best I can do. Well, except for Canada and Mexico. ;)

    I pray everything is going well over there. Stay safe, and keep your powder dry.

  2. It is fun to look at things we take for granted through the eyes of another culture - thank you for that....

    The craziest driving stories I've ever heard come from Kuwait... scary, crazy!

    ReplyDelete domain from: