IT all started one day while I was in a holding pattern somewhere between New York and Boston. Out of frustration and boredom due to the monotonous delay, I asked the fellow next to me where he was from. ``Enigma,'' he said.
``I'm sorry,'' I said. ``I didn't mean to pry.''
``Enigma,'' he replied. ``That's 20 miles from Mystic.''
It turned out that indeed he lived in Georgia near a town called Enigma. The conversation could have happily stopped there, but he offered additional information that he had a relative living in Deaf Smith, Texas. He said when his relative told people where he was from, they always said, ``What?''
The lady sitting across the aisle, who overheard our conversation, apparently had some connection with the United Nations. She forced herself into the dialogue by saying that people might well not know places in the United States but that there was no excuse for not knowing about independent countries of the world.
``I find hardly anyone has ever heard of Kiribati,'' she said.
This didn't surprise me. I had never heard of Kiribati myself. For all I knew, it was something found in a dish of Japanese sashimi, and I couldn't see the connection with Deaf Smith, Texas.
``People simply don't know the names of the places of the world they live in,'' she continued. ``For instance, Lesotho....''
Well, I happened to know where Lesotho was, but she delightedly told me it was a kingdom ruled by King Moshoeshoe. The name came across the aisle as ``More Shoe Shoe,'' so the man next to me laughed in appreciation. It made the lady angry and more aggressive.
``Now take the Republic of Vanuatu....''
``Vanuatu?'' I said. ``Vanuatu?''
``We are cleared out of our holding pattern,'' the captain said over the speaker system.
My friend next to me whispered, ``Ask her if she's ever heard of a place in Texas named Cut and Shoot.''
But I had enough. I pushed my seat back, hoping for a nap, grateful that my average traveling involved only places with sensible names, like Sarasota, Atlanta, New York, and Boston.