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9 July 2004
Dear Hamoud,

Congratulations on your new editing job. It’s so amazing how the Internet makes it possible for you, based in Karachi, to do the same work I did here in Austin. I’ve been ordered to leave you written instructions on how to handle our print products, but there’s an armed guard standing over my shoulder. They sent him to escort me to the parking lot, and he’s getting kind of antsy. So I’m going to have to make this brief.

And that’s too bad, because there are a lot of fine points to this job it will take you a long time to pick up. Especially when you don’t live here. For example, when you see a reference to a tortilla, it’s a flat, bready thing, like what you call a pappadom. There are a lot of local-color terms like that you’ll struggle with for a while, but I can’t really take the time to list them all. The guard is nervous to smoke a cigarette. And I won’t be available for phone consultation at home. They’re cutting the line off Tuesday.

We use AP and Chicago style here, so you ought to bone up on those in your spare time. We use -ize and -or spellings here, Hamoud, not -ise and -our as in the rest of the English-speaking world.

But now that I’ve taken another look at your profile, I imagine you know all about American spellings and pop culture, since you got a top-notch education here at one of our U.S. public universities. The same one I couldn’t afford to send my kid to. Then you got trained under a special visa program to work at an American high-tech company for a few K less than I make. The same one that turned me down, in fact, because (unlike you) I was not “Microsoft certified.”

Just a guess, but I’ll bet the money you sent back to your family went a long way in Karachi. Then the dot-coms crashed and our government cancelled your visa and sent you home. So I can’t blame you a bit for turning your tech skills against U.S. industry and tapping your own dollar stream over the Internet. And, Lord knows — as our President demonstrates every day — lots of Texans don’t speak English as a first language as well as many South Asians do as a second. So I suppose you’ll do just fine.

Actually, Hamoud, I don’t think it matters what I pass on because, quite frankly, my new boss says she cares about cost, not quality. If the product looks mediocre, her superiors will know she doesn’t waste money on excellence. So no one cares whether you do a very accurate job, Hamoud. Quick and dirty — that’s how we Americans like our movies, our sports, and our printed product. Hell, people in this country barely even read anymore. So keep your output high, your bills low, and your complaints to yourself and you’ll do just fine.

Remember that Texans value obedience and subservience over competence. They’re a lot like the British Raj — only meaner, and with much less education.

Don’t get any wacky ideas about “creativity.” Remember — no matter how much noise Americans make about their rugged individuality, about 80 percent of them want to own an identical house in an identical subdivision, drive an identical SUV, and watch the same shows on identical home theaters. The secret to keeping your U.S. audience in a pleasant coma is by streaming a nonthreatening product of reassuring sameness that wouldn’t challenge a 6-year-old. As for that creativity stuff, save it for when you’re working for the French.

Memorize this and learn to say it frequently to your new clients, no matter how much it galls you: “America is the greatest country in the world.” Any time you might mention Allah if you were talking with a Muslim, just drop that line into your conversation. We never get sick of hearing how great we are.

There are a couple of downsides to this job, Hamoud. This may shock you, but there are actually disgruntled former employees and others who hate this institution who have been known to commit acts of terror with assault rifles and explosives on offices like this one, injuring and killing ordinary workers. Amazingly, there are folks here in Texas who dress up in camo and practice with automatic weapons up in the hills. I am sure things like that never happen in your country, but you need to be careful.

Also, you won’t be getting any health benefits, of course, and I guess from now on neither will I. But we’re past all that socialist handout junk here in the progressive West, Hamoud. Why, many of our leaders believe social services and education are best handled by religious institutions. This 21st-century trend probably hasn’t reached you yet in Pakistan, but it’s definitely the wave of the future.

So that’s about all I’ve got. I have to visit the real-estate agent and put my place up for sale now. But there’s a big stack of work attached to this e-mail, so dive right in.

You’re gonna love this job.

Turn over another new leaf:
29 June 2004
Blonde Ambitions

Madonna calls Dr. Laura.

7 June 2004
We Got Gypped by the Gipper

Not everyone loved Ronnie.

31 March 2004
Live Music Gulag

Denver should want to be less like Austin.

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