With all this talk about t-shirts going on, a friend of mine sent me a link to this article discussing the distribution of Superbowl t-shirts. The anecdotes about inappropriate t-shirt messages brought a definite giggle- hesitation about human dignity aside:
Those wearing the tees are either unaware of or unconcerned by the meaning of the English messages they bear. It’s not uncommon to see a man wearing a T-shirt boasting ‘World’s Best Grandma,’ or a young girl wearing a shirt lamenting ‘Stripping ruined my life.’ I’ve seen an old woman in ‘I Love AC/DC,’ an indigenous grandmother with a shirt bragging, “My boyfriend is hotter than yours,” and another disclosing that ‘My boyfriend is out of town.’
Sometimes, the message can be downright subversive. Once in Costa Rica, a friend and I were waiting for a bus when a group of tough-looking teenagers approached and gave us a hard look. But the leader of the pack was wearing a T-shirt that read: ‘I’m not a bitch, I just suffer from permanent PMS.’ I didn’t know whether to hand him my wallet or a Motrin.
They also reminded me of another story.
Some years ago I was travelling independantly in West Africa, and towards the end of my journey had to hitch a ride in a vegetable van from Mauritania into Morocco-governed Western Sahara. The border crossing from the Mauritanian side was a ways into the desert wasteland from Nouadhibou, itself one of the most derelict little outposts I’ve ever had the misfortune of travelling through. The squalor of urban Mauritania is matched by few other places I’ve spent time.
The border crossing was little more than a hut at the edge of a vehicle track in the dirt. Some bored and seedy-looking guards checked passports for a while, and the few travellers (mostly local transporters) loitered around their vehicles, taking the chance for a leg-stretch. The northward route was less plied than the southbound, and compared to the Moroccans who (we were later to learn) maintained a large built-up and well-run complex on their side of no-man’s land, was downright shoddy.
No-man’s land itself was a stretch of desert that took the better part of an hour to navigate, and was laid with landmines. We were advised to find drivers who ply the route regularly. Travelers in their own four-wheel drivers have been killed hitting mines.
My companions and I, already uncomfortable from the travel atop pungent wooden crates, dismounted from the cramped van while we waited for permission to leave Mauritania. It was characteristically hot, the sky scorched white and featureless, and the landscape dull and gravelly. Quiet. Wind-tussled. Not much activity. Sergio Leone would have liked it.
Beside the guard’s shack loitered a scruffy local man. Maybe forty-five, scrawny, with wiry hair and teeth that jutted out, he was grinning and chatting, smoking a cigarette and engaging with anybody who came past. I assume he was either related to one of the guards, or simply too much trouble to send away again. But as an ambassador welcoming people to the conservative Islamic Republic of Mauritania, he couldn’t have been more incongrously suited. Looking him up and down, we all shared a quiet smirk, for the lettering emblazoned on his bright yellow t-shirt enquired confidently of travellers, “Fancy a Quickie?”