Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Crooks and Michael Jackson

One of the really endearing things about Azerbaijan is how trusting people are with valuables.

For example, on the buses, the driver is busy driving. So a passenger--any passenger who happens to be sitting in the jump seat near the driver collects the fares, puts them in a cardboard box left there for that purpose and gives change. When that person gets off, someone else comes up and fills in.

Also on the buses, women sitting with standing women in front of them typically take the purse out of the standing woman's hand and balance it on their laps.

I was at a concert in another large city last fall. At intermission time, everyone headed out to the lobby for refreshments. I noticed that the woman next to me had left her purse on the seat. I was alarmed and ready to grab the purse and find her when I noticed that many other women had done the same thing.

More than a decade ago, the alphabet was changed from Cyrillic to Roman. In other words, it looked sort of Russian before and now the letters look mostly like our alphabet. As a result, the pensioners going the ATM's to get their monthly allotment can't read the new alphabet and don't know how to work the ATM.

So they give their card to strangers (like me), along with their PINs and have the stranger get their monthly allotment out of the ATM for them. I have heard of no old person getting ripped off or even being warned not to do this.


I have lost count of the number of times people have stopped me to offer me their condolences on the death of Michael Jackson. I did not suspect when I came here that anyone would know who he is. The music is different here, they are not down with androgyny and take a very dim view of anyone accused of molesting children. But he was a very big star here among all generations.

In Tibilisi, Georgia, there were large billboards mourning his death and offering condolences to Americans. I don't know what to say, so I mostly say "thank you."

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