Ajar Thread: Getting Away With It (Plus an Update)

Apologies for the lack of post on Friday and the brevity of today’s post. I’ve been planning for, attending, and recovering from Creating Change 2015. Lots of awesome is afoot, I promise.

As a teenager (and beyond), I was quite annoyed with one my relative’s proclivity of thunderously proclaiming very, very intensely judgmental statements about people he hardly knew anything about, let alone to the extent to which such a reaction was warranted. Annoyance became horror when he would call Allah’s curse on people he disliked, which struck me as courting all kinds of bad things.

Once, when he was declaring that Allah’s curse be upon Yasser Arafat (as he often did when it came to Muslim leaders he thought fell short of his ideals), I blurted out, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” As I was the scholar of the family, he seemed to think I was quoting the Quran or Hadith and he stopped his rant.

I had actually been quoting The Bible

by way of Viviane from The Mists of Avalon, but it worked. For all I know, to this very day, he thinks that’s a verse in the Quran or a saying of Muhammad.

What is the best and/or funniest that you got away with by the power of sheer audacity?

Ajar Thread: Getting Away With It (Plus an Update)

7 thoughts on “Ajar Thread: Getting Away With It (Plus an Update)

  1. 1

    Well, this isn’t misquoting Holy Books, but it is funny.

    So, I used to take groups of American volunteers to Eastern European orphanages, and like all translators, I got asked a ton of stupid questions, and stupid questions deserve smart answers, right? Right.

    So one lady asks me, “Do you have prisons in Bulgaria?”

    I was driving; she was in the middle seat of the van, so she couldn’t see my face, which helped. “No,” I replied.

    She thought about this for a moment, and then asked, “Well … what do you do with your prisoners?”

    “We send them to Romania,” I said, matter-of-factly.

    She thought about this. “Where in Romania?”

    “Blisk,” I say, which doesn’t sound the least bit Romanian but it was the best I could do on the spot–and it’s not like someone who has to ask if Bulgaria has prisons knows anything about Romanian place-naming conventions.

    “Where’s that?” she said, by this point thoroughly mystified.

    “It’s in northwest Romania, near Cluj.” Cluj actually is a Romanian town. “It’s a prison town, completely surrounded by barbed wire, and that’s were all the prisoners from Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia are sent, as well as some from Austria.” And then I proceeded to unfold my tale. About the bad conditions inside the prison, about how the guards never actually went in, but merely left food, supplies, and new prisoners at the gates, about the riots a few years back, and how they had been covered on CNN (“Well, CNN international, anyway–I don’t know whether coverage made it to the States.”) and nineteen prisoners had died before order was restored, and so on.

    I finally ran out of steam after piling detail upon detail for about ten minutes. The other Americans in the car were looking quizzical; the two Bulgarian translators were staring with slack-jawed horror; “Wow!” said my questioner, amazed at the vast cultural differences.

    We drove on in silence for a few more kilometers. “Of course we have prisons in Bulgaria!” I finally yelled into the silence of her reverie. When we finally stopped, one of the two other translators grabbed me and said, “I was listening to that and wondering when she would ever clue in, and then she just never did!” The other translator was more succinct: “You’re terrible!” she shouted.

    But she was laughing as she said it.

  2. 2

    I worked a couple of winter seasons at a Colorado ski resort, with a lot of other NZers and Australians, all uni students on our summer breaks. We mis-informed so many USians about our countries. Things like “The Auckland and Sydney Harbour Bridges are the same thing, they just get called different things depending on which end you come from”, or the tale of how the Tasman Sea completely empties at low tide, so you can sprint from one country to another, you just have to hold your passport open as you speed past the customs officer in the middle so you can get a visa stamp on the fly.

  3. 3

    Alice Ronald #2, did anyone ever say that that was all wrong?
    andrew #1, that reminds me of a Peanuts bit where Lucy explains to Linus that knotty-pine recreation rooms are made from the wood of a giant oak tree, and that before you can be President, you must first be a prince.
    I’m reminded of this joke:

    I risultati di un sondaggio fatto dalle Nazioni Unite è venuto fuori. La domanda era: “Per favore, ci dica onestamente qual è la sua opinione circa l’abbondanza contro la scarsità di alimenti nel resto del mondo.” I risultati sono stati i seguenti:

    Gli europei non capivano che cosa significasse “scarsità”.
    Gli africani non hanno capito “abbondanza”.
    Gli americani hanno chiesto il significato del “resto del mondo”.
    I cinesi, perplesso, ha chiesto una spiegazione di “opinione”.
    Nel frattempo, nel Parlamento italiano, sono ancora discutendo sul significato di “onestamente”.

    which I translated with the help of Google Translate:

    The results of a poll taken by the United Nations have come out. The question was: “Please tell us honestly what is your opinion about abundance as opposed to scarcity of food in the rest of the world.” The results were as follows:

    The Europeans did not understand the meaning of “scarcity”.
    The Africans did not understand “abundance”.
    The Americans asked about the meaning of “rest of the world”.
    The Chinese, puzzled, asked for an explanation of “opinion”.
    Meanwhile, in the Italian Parliament, they are still arguing about the meaning of “honestly”.

    Meaning that Americans are very provincial.

    1. 3.1

      They generally worked it out with the “sprinting the Tasman at low tide” story. This was about 2002-2004 and with the world-wide increases in travel security, nobody believed that Customs Officers would let you sprint past them. They then took it as the gentle, ribbing humour we meant.

      We also had one coworker who came from Florida & told people she had a pet alligator. Everyone believed that.

  4. 4

    @1 – hmmm, my husband was talking to someone from his American bank while we were living in France and ended up telling her not to call on the 14th of July because it was a bank holiday.

    ‘The bank holiday was last week,’ she said.
    ‘No, you see the thing is,’ says dh, ‘ they celebrate Independence Day on the 14th in France, because that’s how long news took to travel back then,’
    ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘do you know, I never thought of that.’

    PS – I don’t know how this thread got so USian orientated, but I just couldn’t think of any other examples. At least the clever clogs (my husband) is one too.

    1. 4.1

      You might say that USians, being from a huge country where you can drive thousands of miles and never encounter a border, have traditionally been able to maintain a certain ignorance of other places that people who live in a country that’s five hours tall by six hours wide (in Bulgaria’s case) and has been invaded a bazillion times.

      Or you might say that USians are richer overall, which means that provincial, uneducated USians have the means to travel that lower-class Bulgarians don’t.

      Alternately, I’ve noticed that Americans like to think of themselves as savvy, independent thinkers, and overestimating one’s ability to smell out bullshit perversely makes you much easier to bullshit.

      Or it might just be coincidence that the first two posters have some overseas connections that made them experts on something that Americans didn’t know about, and thus their stories-of-choice for “that one time I totally chutzpah-ed my way through total nonsense” were more likely to be about Americans.

  5. 5

    I didn’t really “get away” with it, but the comments above kinda reminded me of this. I used to work in a company that created billpay software for banks (ye know, where you can pay your bills through your bank’s website?) – every year I’d make some announcement about somethingerother on April Fool’s Day. Oddly, no matter how ludicrous my claims, there were important people who took them seriously.
    One year I sent an email congratulating our new hires – Knuckles and Spike – on being our companies first Client Retention and NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) enforcement specialists, and that they were very persuasive and made all sorts of offers to our clients that they “couldn’t refuse” and that their resumes included skills like small arms, Excel, and martial arts. Soon, they’d be coming around to fit everybody for concrete shoes. So I start getting emails from HR/techs asking where they are sitting so they can set up the phones/send over the paperwork.
    Another year I sent an email pointing out that our new security software would, if it detected malware on an end user’s machine, turn billpay green as a security measure (so you couldn’t read anything). Then it’d break out of the browser, sending UI elements skittering across the desktop – and proceed to run around smashing all other applications, yelling “BILLPAY SMASH” until it found the offending process. After that, it’d run out of steam and turn to normal, collapsing back into the ragged remains of the browser. I ended it stating that we should tell our clients that they wouldn’t like BillPay when it was angry. I went to lunch – found out when I came back that they’d had a conference call about this and dev was over asking me to reproduce the issue.

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