I saw him at the other end of the household items aisle at the local Wal-Mart store. He was a middle-age Iranian professional along his young wife. I got to know this gentleman through meeting him in some local Iranian gatherings. I’ve never had the chance to talk to him personally but we were bumping into each other every now and then.
From all the heavenly images you get to see in Iranian functions such as their cars, houses, food, female companions and so on you hardly can picture them wondering around Wal-Mart store in their jeans. This can sometimes come as a shock.
As soon as I saw him, I tried quickly to turn my shopping cart around and escape the situation by pretending that I’ve seen nothing. But when I was just ready to yank my cart to the left I saw his wife looking right into my eyes with a big smile on her face.
I think my face turned white for a couple of seconds, my mouth got dried, and my feet got heavy. There was no hope waiting for me at the end of this aisle. So, I put myself together and I pushed my cart towards them. It reminded me of the slow motion sequences in the old western movies, where two foes facing each other to shoot the heck out one another. The blow of a dusty wind was carrying dried weed balls on the background.
As I was getting closer and closer, I watched my emotion changed, ranging from shyness to being a proud Iranian, to loving my hamvatan, to disappointment, to hate, to anger and finally to regret all in 1.5 seconds. Well, the regret lasted a little bit more.
I moved forward and I looked at both of them and said hi. They said hi in a lively tone of voice and in a very civilized manner. Everything turned out to be ok but down deep that wasn’t what I was expecting from him. I wanted him to stop his cart and stretch his arm and say Salam. Are you an Iranian? Give me hug. I love you man. You are an Iranian so I am proud of you. Tell me if you have any problem in your life. Let’s get together at my house and talk Parsi. I make you a “debsh, labreez, labdooz, and labsooz” Iranian tea. Hey man I love you unconditionally just because you are an Iranian. Obviously he didn’t do that and that was why I got disappointed, so the love became the hate ending in regret.
From observing Iranian gatherings and specially “Iranian teamwork” if there is such a thing, we all know that we all suffer from one major symptom, high expectations. Even though at work and in the neighborhood we are one generally respected and known to be hard working individuals but when it comes to dealing with other fellow hamvatan we seems to get things mixed up and mistreat each other often. Why?
I think it is mostly because Iranians are one the most hospitable people in the world.
You might ask how the heck hospitality relates to mistreatment. As Iranians in Iran, we are used to see unwanted guests in the middle of the night, friends who were dropping by all the time just to say hi, frequently visiting with our loved ones, having conversation with total strangers about nothing, laughing and crying together, and supporting each other in difficult or foolish situations. Now we are reframed in a society that is strict and uptight about all relationships as long as it is not sexual.
In the society that family doesn’t extend to cousins and you can call everybody uncle, Iranians are lonely and confused. So when one of us sees another Iranian fellow the Iranian nature of hospitality kicks in first so then can be suppressed by what we learned here as how to restrict our relationships. Therefore Iranians love each other down deep we but are confused on how they are going to be perceived as an original Iranian.
I don’t know what the cure for this illness is but I have tried one thing and it has worked. I tried to lower my expectations while attempted to get closer to other Iranians. It is surprising that how ordinary we are behind these PhD, Dr, PE, and so on titles. So when you see another Iranian in the store or the parking lots remember what Sohrab said: Sadeh Basheem che dar badjeye yek bank, che dar zeere derakht.