Every skype conversation with my parents begins the same way: “Hello? Can you hear me? I can hear –wait hello? Now I can’t see you. (Typing: turn your camera on) Okay that’s better. Wait can you hear me?” etc. Last night we repeated this sacred ritual and like usual surprised ourselves with a successful conversation. After talking about weather and church for an appropriate amount of time, given our backgrounds as Middle Americans, my parents commented that my video’s quality was quite poor. Based on the image, I was a freak that lived in a highly pixilated cave, one side of my face shadowy with never ending night and the other a dull orange.
There are a number of reasons for this, I explained. First of all, I do live in a highly pixilated cave. Second of all, my room is naturally dim because I only have two lamps. While thinking about the lamps, I was struck with the desire to show them something I was proud of, namely a lampshade I had made myself. I created this masterpiece by hanging a scarf between a curtain rod and a picture frame, hiding the lamp’s naked bulb behind a transparent scarf wall. However, instead of being impressed at my ingenuity, my mother said with an overtone of reprimand, “Now Emily, isn’t that a fire hazard?”
Where are the congratulations, the “well done, genius and thrifty daughter, for you have saved yourself the purchasing of a lamp shade and used a seldom worn scarf to diffuse light from a bare bulb?”
Also, of course it’s a fire hazard! Sometimes I look over and the scarf is draped on the naked bulb in a forbidden embrace. If I had left the room with the bulb and scarf in such a position, who knows what I would have found when I got back. The sock I’ve been looking for? A hole singed in my scarf? A fiery chamber of death? It could be anything! So yes. Technically, this precarious set up is slightly dangerous.
However, let’s not forget the fact I live in Egypt. The makeshift lampshade, or pre-fire if you will, is only one of many dangers I face daily. I also have to cross the street, no small task in a city with 5×10-7 crosswalks per person and billions of cars. Furthermore, according to World Bank statistics from 2004, Cairo is among the most polluted cities in the world. These pollutants daily become a part of my body, which itself is becoming more flammable. They’re also pollutants I’ll be bringing back with me to the states, where I intend to get as much medical work done as possible while still on my parents’ insurance.
The concern is certainly welcome, but I would prefer it to be done in a more thoughtful manner. I simply ask that if they’re going to worry, they worry about everything and in equal proportions. Road safety should probably come first, even before the worry I’ll convert, marry an Egyptian man, and never come home (in that order.)
For further questions on what should and should not be worried about and/or quotes from Late Night with Conan O’Brien circa 2006, please contact me. Thanks.