Super-Size Me, Meharbani-She

by , May 16, 2008, 7:30 AM
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In the granddaddy of all food fights, our remarkably sensitive President said that India's rising prosperity is to blame for food inflation. This drew a couple of equally appropriate responses from Indian officials, including: "If Americans slimmed down to the weight of middle-class Indians, many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates" and "The money spent in the United States on liposuction to get rid of fat from excess consumption could be funneled to feed famine victims."

This kind of bitch-slapping, I suspect, is a direct result of exporting American values along with phone headsets and digital owner manuals for nearly every electronic product on sale in the US of A. You can't expect 50,000 otherwise lovely Indians to spend 12 to 14 hours a day on the phone with pissed-off American PC and cell phone users and not come away with a little swagger fueled by a constantly refreshed extensive working knowledge of deprecating, streetwise, stereotypical, and often racial invectives.

You're pretty excited. You just graduated from Jaipur Community College with the usual degrees in astrophysics, nuclear medicine, advanced mathematics, and computer science, and you've landed your first job--on the help desk of a major American computer manufacturer. Your job is to read the script off the monitor in front of you and watch the clock so that at exactly 19 minutes of playing Tetris in a remote window, you can say: "You have to do a clean install or I can put you in the eternal wait line for a higher-level technician."

That night you inquire of your family, gathered around the daal ki kachauri and mirchi bada, what it means to be a "motherf**ker"? Cleaning up the falooda expelled by your little brother, your father says: "We do not talk like that in this house, do you hear me now?" And so begins your education in various ways Americans vent their frustrations with everything from slow-loading Vista, to iPods that die three hours after their warranty expires, to GPS systems that can only be successfully programmed by MIT graduates.

Among the other things you learn in your shiny new job is that Americans are highly religious. For example, on hearing your accent, they celebrate by loudly exclaiming the name of one of their gods, a Mr. "Je-SUS Chee-rist-not-another-one!" Americans continue with their spiritual exclamations, often referring to the manufacturer of their broken product as "goddamned Dell" or "goddamned Microsoft." They also reference their underworld, usually in the form of a question such as "Why in the HELL..." One sect of American's three predominant monotheistic traditions will often react to your explanations with "Oy vey iz mir!--which has no direct religious connotations, but it means that they aren't buying what you're selling. When you hear "Gai kukken afen yam," it is time to transfer the call to your supervisor.

Americans are not by nature patient when it comes to things broken, so while they may agree to wait while you go offline "for a moment to look up something," they in fact are steaming with rage that 1) they had to make the call in the first place; 2) they had to wait a long time on hold until you answered; 2) they got you instead of a nice girl from Colorado who can speak English; 4) you didn't simply say "close the browser, say three Hail Marys and everything will be fine when you relaunch the browser"; 5) or that they are having a bad day anyway, because the minutes/hours they are spending on the phone with you was going to be their time for a quick 10k run before dinner.

Since about 12 million things can go wrong with most electronics that cost over $399--and you only have resolutions on your PC for 56 of them--you are in all likelihood not really going to able to help the caller. This will lead to a final round of invectives, where you will hear things that ought not be asked about at dinner.

I know you think saying you are "sorry" on behalf of your employers should be of some solace to the caller, but rest assured it is not. And in fact, if you listen carefully, while you are apologizing you will hear mad keystrokes in the background as your American caller fires up a blog post explaining in great detail why they will NEVER buy another product from your employer ever again in their entire lives.

A final word of advice: Do NOT ask the caller if they'd like to donate their liposuction fund to famine relief.

The story you have just read is an attempt to blend fact and fiction in a manner that provokes thought, and on a good day, merriment. It would be ill-advised to take any of it literally. Take it, rather, with the same humor with which it is intended. Cut and paste or link to it at your own peril.

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