Every few months, I put up a cryptic status on Facebook: “Won’t be reachable for a month and a half on phone. If you need to contact me – which you shouldn’t, since I’m unemployed, misanthropic and reluctant to help anyone with anything – use email or Facebook.”
For a while, the response was satisfying: concerned messages about my well-being and my family’s, usually brimming with thinly-disguised curiosity – “Heyyyyy…Hope all well…your post got me worried…family and everyone okay?” – which could be ignored with, “All well, thanks. *Smiley*”
Eventually people figured out that this meant I was going on vacation.
If you’re from this part of the world, and you’re going “abroad”, this can mean only two things – souvenirs and courier service.
Suddenly, you’re bombarded with messages from people, asking where you’re headed. Whether you’re going to New York or some deserted part of Mongolia, someone who is connected to you on Facebook will know someone who is a janitor, or student, or both, in your destination. He or she will beg you to take something. Why not send it through FedEx? Well, that doesn’t have the “personal touch”, you see. In other words, they can save a few hundred rupees by swallowing a valuable chunk of your vacation time.
And then, there are those students and janitors who will ask you to fetch something from home.
“Hey! Can I ask you for a teensy favour? Do you think you can fit in my sweater/bra/phone/iPod/hard drive/shoes? I left them behind last time!”
First of all, all these commodities are available across the world. In fact, they slowly made their progress from the West to East over the last century.
Second of all, someone who is stupid enough to leave any of the above behind deserves to live without them for the rest of his or her miserable life.
Or, they ask: “Hey, I really miss aam papad from the store near my parents’ house. Pretty please, bring?”
A friend told me that she knew someone who had posted about his imminent return from the US, saying: “No I will not carry a parcel or buy something for you. Thanks for missing me, guys.”
[quote]”Hey, gurl, t hel wit d ppl who don mis u, u r awsum n remember it, luv u, muah. <3″[/quote]
I was inspired for a few seconds. But, knowing the basket cases I have on my Friends list, I’m fairly sure that someone will post, “Hey, gurl, t hel wit d ppl who don mis u, u r awsum n remember it, luv u, muah. <3”
I will not know how to react – should I be deeply embarrassed about knowing people like this, because this could estrange me from the Facebook friends I actually respect? Should I be angry? If so, should I be more annoyed by the use of quicktext, or by the content, or by the run-on sentences? Should I delete the comment, and then the commenter?
Another consequence of being on vacation is that people relentlessly follow your posts. Now, I don’t put up many pictures when I’m on vacation. If you feel the need to Facebook your every move, you probably don’t like either the place or the company, or you’re desperate for people to know you like the place and/or the company.
Yet, when I last returned from Europe, someone I know said, “Hey, I saw you were posting from your phone though you said you weren’t going to be using it. What sort of data plan did you get? And do you have the SIM card? I can save a few euros if I take it from you instead of buying a new one. We’re going in two weeks.”
About a month ago, I was selected as one of five winners of a fiction contest. We are being sent to Paris to attend the Writers of India Festival, which conducted the contest in association with Columbia University and Caravan magazine.
Somehow, people interpreted this as: “I’m going on a sponsored sex romp to Paris and, of course, it will be my pleasure to satisfy your liquor and liqueur needs, flouting all customs regulations. Also, I exist solely to bring back fridge magnets.”
God. I cannot tell you how much I despise being asked for fridge magnets. To begin with, I think it is the lamest idea that ever became a success, IQ no bar. Second, I don’t see what the point of a souvenir bought by someone else is. Isn’t the whole point of a souvenir the memory of a moment or a trip? Third, all these collectors of magnets have specifications – they want “something funky, not the clichéd Eiffel Tower types that you get in the souvenir shops.”
Really? Why don’t I get a mould made of my middle finger with the Notre Dame Cathedral on top? Or how about I get a mould made of your butt and stick the Eiffel Tower where it belongs? Are those funky enough to merit a place on your fridge?
And then there’s this vicarious voyeurism: “Hey, let me know how good Frenchmen are in bed.”
Whoa, how did you figure out my life’s ambition is to walk around Paris with a placard that says: ‘TOURIST. RESEARCHING SEX SKILLS OF FRENCHMEN. VOLUNTEERS PLEASE APPROACH’?
The silver lining is that about three out of the five hundred people on your Facebook will send you a list of must-see places and tell you how to navigate the public transport. For those three, you can walk into a souvenir shop and buy knockoffs of the Mona Lisa, feeling no resentment.