I had this funny thought today, driving past JFK with an EgyptAir plane thisclose to landing on top of my car. The women who work at their desks wear these beautiful I Dream of Jeannie – esque hats – beige caps with a gorgeous long red scarf attached. They are so cliche and so inauthentic and so potentially stereotypical but seem harmless.
And when I first saw them, I thought how it could make for a potentially sad life to go to work each day to sit behind a desk typing at a computer, but to have to wear a costume while doing so that is meant to play up one’s imagination of what they will find when they arrive in Egypt, however misleading.
But then today. Now: dreariness of life aside, you may say that it’s dishonest to lure someone into a country (ok, they already bought the ticket) with false impressions of what the culture will be when they get there. But that’s not how it seemed to me when I realized that (due to unemployment-brain perhaps) I might enjoy this job.
It’s not much different from any other form of fiction. While mourning an upcoming soap opera loss (contract expirations are tragedies) it hit me that I voluntarily struck up a fabricated sense of care and compassion with this character via the soap’s plot devices and access channels, and that my choice to take part in such a commitment was completely one-sided. He didn’t have to renew his contract, the show made no promises about the character’s future, and the network (probably even the daytime department) gives zero shits about who is cast on the show at this point. But there I was, watching his scenes, getting to know his character, using a story to gain emotional satisfaction. Creative work is made to be consumed and appreciated on an emotional level, but is filtered through a bunch of outside factors that care very little about how people process it.
This investment was all my own, and I knew the drawbacks. That’s what fiction does. You decide what something represents, and interpret it how you choose. I could sit there, wearing that hat day in and day out, appropriating it however wrongly, fantasizing about the experiences travelers to Egypt may have. It’s not up to me to build up their expectations, and I cannot be blamed when they’re let down. But the perk of that job is being present while, um, perhaps some of the passengers who are actually traveling to Egypt on leisure these days get to fantasize about what they’ll encounter when they arrive.