The other day I went to the bank to take out a loan. My 15-year-old cousin's birthday was coming up and I had promised to buy him some Nike pumps. Actually, I hadn't made a promise. It was more like my aunt had threatened that unless my birthday present was of some substance this time, she would exclude me from all future parties in which hot food was to be served. And everybody knows you're only as important as the parties that you're invited to.
After I took a second mortgage on my house, and pawned off my Timex which had stopped ticking — oh, right about the Iranian revolution — I then borrowed some money from a friend, promising him to return it to him by Friday when I knew fully well I had no intention of ever repaying him. All that creative financing allowed me to amass a whopping sum which I thought was enough money to make a down payment on a pair of brand new Nikes. Yes sir. So, off to the shoe store.
Feeling like a rich man, loaded with cash and incentives, I snapped my fingers at the salesman. “Hey, come here boy.” But when the salesman got there, I realized it was a girl with one of those short and spiky hairdos.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I called ahead and made a reservation to see the store manager. He assured me there is no problem with financing, right? He said 'bad credit, no problem.' Yeah. That's what he said.”
“Okay, sir? It's like, Jod isn't right here right now you know? and he'll be back later.”
“Jod? What kind of name is 'Jod'?”
“Well, his real name is Javad, but he'd like to be called Jod? and so he isn't right here right now… So, if you want to sit over there? or something?”
“When is 'Jod' going to be back anyway? Because I had made an appointment to see him, and believe me, this is the first time I have made an appointment to see a shoe salesman about financing a pair of shoes.”
“Well, it's kind of, like, Jod is very busy these days? I think he should be back right about 2 or 5 o'clock…”
“Which one? 2 or 5? There is a big difference.”
“Okay, to be honest with you? maybe more like 3 or 4?”
“Are you asking me or telling me? Because at the end of every sentence you have this upward intonation that makes your regular statements sound like a question.”
“Okay. I'm telling you.”
“So, which one is it?”
“Okay, truthfully? he should be right back right around 2, or 4, or right about then.”
I was not making progress. But luckily at that very moment this short and slightly overweight man, who had dyed the remainder of his thinning hair blond, walked in. From the smell of the cholo-kabob, I could only guess he was the man. While I was admiring his chestal hair which was protruding from his silk shirt, she introduced me.
“Jod? Okay, this is Mr…, what did you say your name was again?”
“Okay. Jod? He didn't say his name. He's here to see you.”
Jod nodded his head and went to his desk. I followed him. He sat and yelled to the saleswoman. “Anyvon called for me?”
“Yes. Your wife called and said you need to buy a new oftabeh because the old one has a hole in it. What is 'oftabeh,' Jod?”
“Never mind vat it is. You voodn't under-estand. So, sir, vat can I do for you?”
“Mr. Jod, as I said on the phone, Faramarz sent me. You said 'bad credit, no problem.' Can you still finance my purchase?”
A look of pain overcame Jod's face. He flossed his teeth thoughtfully with his fingernails.
“You gonna buy these shoes for yourself?” he asked.
“No. I gonna… I mean, I'm gonna buy these shoes for a family member. This is very important. It's a matter of family pride, you understand.”
“Yes. I under-estand.”
“Ordinarily, I'd buy the shoes in cash. But right now, I'm kind of strapped. Just last month I had a wedding to go to, and I had to buy a present. Before that, I had to attend a baby shower for men and bought another present. Then last week, disaster struck and there was a graduation and a house warming on the same weekend. I had to sell blood to get the cash for that one.”
“Your own blood?”
“No, actually I was dog-sitting for a friend and so I drained some blood from the dog, whom my friend has ironically named Dracula. Dracula has type Woof blood. Anyway, each present for those occasions set me back a few hundred bucks. Yesterday, I had to go to a funeral, and there was another 100 bucks that I went into the hole for the flowers. Funny thing was, everybody was looking at my flowers like it was nothing. The shame of it… Hey, I don't feel comfortable talking about emotional matters like this in English. Can we speak in Farsi?”
“No! This is my estore, and my estore is my castle. Vee only espeak Ingilish here.” But just as rapidly, his quick temper subsided. “Ok, let's espeak Farsi.” He then began sympathizing with me. “I feel your pain. It seems like all the money I make goes into buying presents also. Every year, I have to buy five presents for my wife alone: One for Christmas, one for Valentine's Day, one for her birthday, one for Noruz, one for our anniversary. Then people keep dying or getting married and reproducing like rabbits.”
“Back in Iran, we didn't have to buy so many presents.”
“Yes. My father never bought any real presents for my mother. Once he bought a bigger pot for her birthday because the old one couldn't make enough tahDig. But that was the extent of it.”
“Last year I bought enough gift wrap to cover the entire state of Texas.”
“Likewise, the money I spent on presents was twice as much as the national budget of Liechtenstein. Why are we Iranians so big on presents?”
“I don't know. All I know is that my budget deficit due to all these gift purchases is going up faster than the U.S. deficit. At this rate, I'm going to have to either win the lottery, or marry the old widow of a rich, dead tycoon and suck up to her 12 annoying puppies.”
Javad agha seemed to under-estand my dire situation and he promised me he'd do his best to accommodate my purchase. He put me in a brand new pair of Air Jordans — not to be mistaken with a Middle Eastern airline — for $249 with the special discount for Iranians.
On the way home, I decided to put on the shoes and check them out. I laced them up and pumped them and began walking. They were so soft and comfy. But then, I heard a loud blast from the sole of my right foot. Air began gushing out of the Air Jordan, turning it into Vacuum Jordan. Soon, I had a flat tire on my right foot. I started kicking myself for not purchasing the 50,000-mile warranty Jod was trying to sell me.