Un not an

I'm going to Iran. I just realized how little time I have before we leave. We're buying the tickets. We have less than 10 weeks left to the anxiously awaited event. This week we will buy the airline tickets. Before I get into my final words about 1979 and get on to why we didn't go to Iran in the 80's, I want to mention that, for other people who are planning this sort of trip for the first time — Never wait until the last minute to buy the airline tickets. Jamsheed is telling me he knows people who can get us a good deal. But, I'm sure that if we had planned a little earlier, we could have done better.

Final words about 1979

So, where was I? I guess when I left you last week I had left Jamsheed 'forever' to go accept a job that would let me see America. I accepted a job with a company that sold people pictures of themselves. I worked for a company that prepared yearbooks for churches. These yearbooks, put together in a way similar to the yearbooks produced for high schools, included pictures of all the families in the congregation.

My job was to drive from church to church across the country. I visited two or three churches a week. After traveling six or seven hours from one church to the next, I called the list of people who had their pictures taken, and set up appointments for them so that they could choose the picture that would be included in the yearbook.

Of course, the real purpose of the appointment was to get them to pay as much as possible for the pictures that had been prepared for them and, if possible, get them to order an oil painting made from one of the portraits. At a good church, I was able to set up as many as 20 appointments for a day. Not many days were that good.

I remember one very long day at a church in the middle of Iowa. I had a total of five appointments during the two days I was there. It was harvest time. I guess the entire congregation was out working in the fields. I liked the new car the company gave me to drive. I liked having the opportunity to see the American countryside. I did not like the opportunity.

I was not good at this job. The commissions I made were barely enough to pay for expenses. In November, the churches scheduled for me were close to my parents' house. I was looking forward seeing my folks again.

I had to drive through the main campus on my way home and decided to surprise my sister who was now in her sophomore year there. It was a Friday night, and I didn't have to be at the next church on the list until Monday morning. As it happened, my sister and her friends were having a small get-together at her house. She and her roommates had some people visiting from out-of-town.

As it got late, my sister realized that there were a lot of people at the apartment, and not a lot of room for sleeping. One of her friends lived in a trailer park off campus. Like many small trailers, all of her furniture opened up into beds. Rather than sleeping on the floor at my sister's, I gladly accepted her friend's invitation to spend the night at the trailer park. The chair-turned-bed was surprisingly comfortable. I slept well.

I woke up that morning feeling refreshed and ready to get back in my car and make the three-hour drive to my parents' house. I had breakfast with my sister's friends and said my good-byes. As I walked to my car I saw it. Jamsheed's '68 Mustang was parked directly across the street. There was no mistaking that car. The same rust pattern on the body above each of the wheels.

The tattered once white, now brownish beige vinyl covered hardtop roof. That was Jamsheed's car all right. Just as I was taking note of the familiar blanket strewn over the passenger seat — the blanket that served as the car's sole heating system in the winter, Jamsheed emerged from inside the trailer. I realized the instant I saw him that I hadn't lost any of the feelings that I had for him.

At the same instant we spoke one-another's names with the same tone of surprise. I didn't quite know what to say. I don't know how long it took me to notice his cousin who, by the time I noticed was sitting in the car waiting for a ride to the airport, or home, or something. Jamsheed and I arranged to meet when he got back from this errand. Driving home to see my parents could wait.

I met Jamsheed for lunch that day feeling happy that we could still be friends. We exchanged addresses and telephone numbers. He gave me names and numbers of friends and relatives of his that I could visit when I was on the road. Late that evening, I kissed him good-bye to start my three-hour drive to my parents' house.

It didn't take me long after that to realize that Jamsheed and I couldn't be friends. Fate would not allow the word friendship to define our relationship. We exchanged letters, and talked on the phone. When I was scheduled to sell portraits near where his cousins lived, he arranged to be there. It was November. Everyone was talking about the hostage crises.

In the days while he was getting money from home, Jamsheed had brought up the subject of marriage a couple of times. Each time I made it clear that it would be impossible. I couldn't see how I could fit into his plans. This time it was me who brought up the subject. It took us a few weeks to make the plans, get the necessary license, and so forth.

Jamsheed's best friend was a bartender who didn't get off work until 2am on the night we had planned for the big event. In December of 1979 at 3am, a Justice of the Peace, after lecturing us on how marriage wasn't just 'something to do after the bars closed' performed the marriage ceremony. The reception was at Marjan's apartment with our 10 closest friends in attendance.

Jamsheed and I were married now. It was time to start taking my Persian language learning seriously. Armed with 'Teach Yourself Modern Persian', I was ready. Whenever we were with friends when the language switched to Persian, I found myself a corner of the room and started learning how to read, write and speak Persian. One day while sharing pizza with friends, I was ready to put together my very first sentence — All by myself.

There was one last piece of pizza on the table. Jamsheed's friend Syeed was tarufing — asking if anyone wanted the last piece. I made my statement. ”
Midonam keh to michai an raa mikhori. An raa bekhor. Taaruf na kon. An raa bekhor.” I was smiling ear-to-ear. I was so proud that I was able to speak so many lines of Persian — and without even a little help from Jamsheed. Syeed just looked stunned. He turned and looked at Jamsheed with a disgusted look.

I slowly began to realize that the words hadn't come out quite right. What I meant to say was – “I know you want to eat that. Don't taruf (be too polite). Go ahead. Eat that.” But, in Persian though the word 'that' is spelled
alef (a)
nun (n), when it is spoken it is pronounced 'un'. Pronouncing it
An, as I just discovered, can get you into a bit of trouble. 'An' translates roughly into 'shit'. This was one Persian lesson that will remain embedded in my brain forever.

By the end of 1979 I was still not ready to visit Iran – Not just because I was still learning the difference between 'un' and 'an' — Not even because I was a pennyless newlywed. The real reason was that the closest thing I had to a computer at that time was a programmable calculator. “Programmable” at that time meant that I could store up to 10 simple calculations.

Next week: Jamsheed beh buss?

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