lost in translation

Someone recommended an article by Niall Ferguson in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. Not being one to turn down an opportunity to avoid “real” work by reading things that I can fool myself into thinking are close enough to my field to count as “real” work, I strolled down to the local magazine shop. Since I am between residences and temporarily renting an apartment close to work, the local magazine shop is situated in what could accurately be described as a colourful neighbourhood. It also happens to be at the confluence of this (let’s not mince words) scuzziness and where the lawyers and doctors, architects and grad students get off the subway. Having never bought a copy of Foreign Affairs, I was curious to see how much it goes for (an absurd $12 and change it turns out). Not seeing it on the shelf, I innocently asked the woman behind the counter of the busy shop, “Do you carry a magazine called Foreign Affairs?” She stared back at me blankly. I repeated the question a little louder; a few people turned to look. Still nothing. Then she called to the back of the shop. Another woman emerged. They exchanged some incomprehensible whispers, then the second woman looked me over and marched toward the approximately 500 square feet of shelfspace devoted to porn. Oh no, I thought. She began shouting across the store, waving ever more hardcore publications in her chubby fist, “What kind of affairs you looking for, sir? This one? This one?” At that point, with everyone’s gaze fixed on me, trying to explain myself would probably only have made matters worse. So I just smiled meekly, thanked them for their help and went on my way, hoping the lawyers and doctors, architects and grad students know the difference between Foreign Affairs and Swank. I still haven’t read the Ferguson piece, but I’ll get to it this weekend, once I polish off some real work and find the thing online.


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