Saturday, January 21, 2006

Filling the registration form at our local dentist yesterday, I very nearly put down Blogger as my occupation. Just for a laugh you know. But then I wrote down Illustrator instead which can incidentally be just as funny to some people. ‘Illustrator?’ they ask. ‘Yes’ I reply. ‘But that’s not a job.’ They say, sounding very pleased with themselves, as if I have just tried tell them the biggest lie of all time and they’ve caught me out.
‘Well not all of us are lucky enough to have landed a glamorous job at a call centre for NTL.’ I think to myself, but I don’t say it out loud because one, I’m not one for rubbing people’s noses in it and two, she might not appreciate sarcasm and cut my phone line off and what will I do then? Guess what she looks like from her voice and draw her picture?!

The interesting thing is that I have had these occupational problems all my life. Well maybe not all my life but I’ve definitely had a few from when I started school anyway. Father’s occupation bit on my registration form had been left blank and this was really upsetting our head teacher. Every time she saw me in the corridors or the school yard, she would shout, ‘Saramad, Saramad (this is my old surname by the way and not that she had some sort of speech impediment or anything like that)’ until I either managed to pretend that I hadn’t heard her and ran and hid somewhere, or went to her and was told that she still needed to know what my father’s occupation was. Every time, I would tell her that my father didn’t work but that just made her mad. ‘Everyone works’ she would say irritably ‘you just don’t know what he does. Go and ask your mother and come and tell me tomorrow.’
The more she asked me this, the more worried I got about the whole thing. I kept thinking maybe not working was a crime in the Islamic Republic and my dad was going to be taken to prison or something (well a lot of weird things were happening in the country then). Later I realised that I needed not to have worried about that at all since the only reason that woman was so interested in my father’s occupation was that she wanted to know how much money she was able to scrounge off my family at the next teacher parent meeting.
Anyway I finally, as the head teacher had instructed, asked my mum what my dad did.

A few days later at school, we were in the middle of a lesson in our classroom when the head teacher suddenly barged in and after exchanging polite nods and smiles with our teacher, became serious once more saying, ‘Saramad, I’m really at the end of my tether with you. What is your father’s occupation?’ I could tell she meant business. It must have been coming up to a teacher parent meeting or something.
Whatever the reason, by coming to our classroom like that, she had scared the hell out of me. So in a sort of weird fright trance, I repeated what my mum had told me to say word for word, ‘Up until a few months ago my father had been reading a few things and now he is writing a few things of his own.’
‘Aah’ grunted the frustrated head teacher, ‘what does that mean?’ she said, raising her voice a little, ‘Look at this.’ She said pointing at my registration form that she had in her hand, ‘even if what you just said made any sense, how could I ever fit all that in this little space on here. Father’s occupations are usually just one word like Doctor, Dentist, Surgeon.’ (the poor woman had high hopes for my family as well) She paused to see what I had to say for myself. But I just kept staring ahead, not knowing what else to do. Finally she got bored and stormed out of our classroom.

Some years past. That head teacher left our school and another one took her place. This one was also curious about my father’s occupation since it was still left blank on the form. So she asked me about it. By then my father was officially a writer and his first book was either coming out or had already come out. And so very proudly I replied, ‘My Father is a writer Miss.’
‘Ok’ she said, sounding a bit annoyed, ‘But what does he do for a living?’

Now many years later, history repeats itself and I get asked this exact same question myself. And now I finally know what my answer to it should be, ‘To tell you the truth, I’m really a Blogger that moonlights as an illustrator.’ That should confuse them good and proper.

20 comments:

Behrooz said...

The way you began looked bland and I was about to feel a little dismayed. Yet, it soon got its tempo and there you are again: making something valueable out of a seeming trifle. Your mild and unassuming humour is so catching and your suspense technique works quite naturally. The end a writing is not easy at all and you know how to do it 'good and porper'.

Em said...

D post was funni humorous and interestin

Btw I feel that you should hv put Blogger on the application

Foulla said...

love this post very much.i didn't stop staring at the screen till the last word "proper"..now,my eyes hurt..;(but that's ok,it's worth it..thank u for sharing with elegance..(btw dont know if my last sentence makes sens but that's how i feel,the way u write is very elegant..)two thumbs up!!

amanda kay said...

this is my favorite one yet shirin. my favorite part is when you tell them he's a writer and she says but what does he do for a living.

everytime i go to england, when i go through customs you have to fill out what your occupation is, and i put 'consultant'. it works very well. and people don't ask too many questions because it sounds professional.

Kamyar said...

Brilliant, although it wasn’t a new story to me I really enjoyed reading it. Without a doubt it’s one of your best posts.

Bobby said...

Same here - blogger pays me fifteen dollars a word. Thinking of asking for a raise.

Dodo said...

People are forever asking me where I am from and I always tell them Belgium, that causes a lot of confusion as well.

I think I will say to blog in chinese next time someone asks me why I am learning chinese. Ty for the great idea.

Alireza said...

thanks for sharing! and by the way what do you do for living;-)?
I am just wondering!

Shirin said...

Thanks Behrooz. I wonder how far down you had to read before you got into it though. Do you remember? I’m just curious.

Yes Em I think I should have too :-) Maybe next time.

Wow elegant! Thanks Foulla. Hope your eyes are better now my friend.

That does sound professional a.k.g. But I thought your real job was Car Psychologist.

Really Kamyar? Cool. But I think it might have been the wonderful aroma of Baghali polo as well that was making you so emotional :-)

Bobby, Yes I think you should ask for a raise, and while you’re at it, could you put a good word in for me as well do you think?

You’re very welcome Asad and good luck on your great mission to confuse the Taiwanese.

Alireza do you really want to know that? Well the truth is this is just a cover, I actually work for MI6. Now I have both good and bad news for you. The good news is that you don’t have to wonder what I do for a living anymore and the bad news is that I can’t have anyone knowing that I work for the MI6 and therefore will have to kill you. So if you could just leave your home and work address on here for me next time you visit, I would really appreciate it. I would also be very grateful if you could leave your front door unlocked at nights from now on because I would hate to have to climb through your window or crawl down your chimney and injure myself or worse, break my nails. I hope you don’t take this personally my dear Alireza as I am only doing my job.

Behrooz said...

Well, right after the second paragraph. (And when I say bland I am judging it by the high standard you have set for your writing, otherwise I would not dare even imagine the word.) You know, when you establish a connection between the recent minor incident and a very deeply social issue in Iran, it does the trick to arrest the reader. Well done.

jarvenpa said...

Isn't it interesting how we try to label people--by occupation, or where they are from, or other surface things. Your post brought to mind my experience years ago when I was entering England for a year. I was traveling with my boyfriend of the time who had a big fellowship and was doing research and had Official Papers and no problem getting in. I had saved up money to live (simply) and support myself while I worked on my writings. At the customs gate at 4 in the morning I was asked my occupation. "Writer" was definitely not what they wanted to hear!(I got in on a temporary visa that got renewed later, but only after nearly bursting into tears and wondering if I had just made up my publication history and my talent.)

marieh said...

oh shirin,I can feel how it must have been for you everyime the head teacher gir midad, she must have seemed big powerful and scary woman in her black manteau. I advise friends who think of going to iran to tell people they are art students, if there is gonna be money talk and if they invited somewhere to say they ll become a doctor...i liked the idea of adressing yourself as a "consultant"

priPat said...

ur way of writng is really intresting ! anyway nice blog

ShadgolI said...

I don,t know why people don't understand? To me it comes naturally. They ask, "what does your cousin do?" and I always say "she is an illustrator", and that's the end of it. I think what is difficult to answer, is when you have studied psychology, and sociology at college and you do something completely diferent for living. Because I am very much familiar with this situation, the first time I said what I did (for living), I even shocked myself. After years of jumping from one branch to another, studying Italian, preparing for graphics, architecture, micribiology, each in a separate year (as you recollect). Then once in my late twenties I came back to the England form a holiday and the immigration officer asked, "what to you do in the U.k?" and I said "I'm a nurse". Suddenly it echoed in my head. I'M A NURSE!!?? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!!
Anyway we are moving Wednesday and Thursday this week. I have a studyday all day tomorrow!! So maybe we'll talk later and you can come over Wed, Or Thursday ( if you like that is)!!

shadgoli said...

Sorry it's too long and badly written, I really meant microbiology! I have only woken up after four hours of sleep, forgive me!

Foulla said...

shadgoli's comment is really funny!!it must be in u're family's "genes";)))

Shirin said...

Thanks Behrooz :-) It’s good to find out about these things.

Oh Jarvenpa what they did to you is really unbelievable. When my husband and I got married and wanted to come back to England, even though I had a British passport, the passport officer very nearly did not give my husband a visa, just because she couldn’t see how I could make money by doing art.

Yes Marieh, that woman used to really scare me. You’re right to advise your friends to say they will become doctors. It could also work just as well if they said they would become Mohandess ;-)

Thank you Priyanka and welcome :-) Very nice name by the way.

Shadgoli do you just say ‘she is an illustrator’ or do you say ‘she is an illustrator and that’s the end of it’ because I really like this second answer. I think I might start using that myself.

Yes Foulla she is very funny. I keep telling her that she needs to get a blog of her own and write in it but she is always too busy saving lives.

gazankhan said...

My dear weblog police, what happened to my blog? The right side from up to botom is empty,clear, nothing is there, and it shows just two and a half(!)really, of my posts.
How do you see it? the way I see? or like before?

Shirin said...

Gazankhan, I’m very sorry to hear about that. I just went to your blog though and couldn’t see anything wrong with it so whatever it was must have passed by now. Or maybe they saw the infamous blogploice coming and quickly reorganised your blog back to how it was. I’m going to have to do a stakeout on your blog one of these nights and put those nasty criminals away once and for all.

Gazankhan said...

Thank you my dear, but to me it's still the same, the right margin is clear. Let's see when it'll go back to the original form itself.