Saturday, August 13, 2011

pins v. underwear

I read in a special issue of The New Yorker about Madeleine Albright’s pin collection and her way of wearing pins to communicate indirectly during negotiations. The piece, by Lauren Collins, gives several examples. When she was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and had angered Saddam Hussein, a poem appeared in the Iraqi press which called her an “unparalleled serpent.” So, she went into her next day of negotiations wearing a snake pin. It was a hit so Albright started after some more bejeweled negotiation support pieces. Another example Collins gives is a meeting with the Russians about an anti-ballistics treating to which she wore a four-inch interceptor missile. Apparently, there’s a complete book about the collection of pins she amassed and how and when they were worn.

Rather than making me want to go out and buy the book, my mind wandered to my own personal collection. What if I achieved some level of notoriety – possibly for brokering peace in the Middle East, but let’s not be limited – how would my collection fare in a review? Well, that would be my underwear collection, and I can say from the start that there are some distinct differences in how we would use our collections. Well, no, only one distinct difference: I would not be exposing myself to anyone, dictator or otherwise, in an attempt to foster world peace through subtle communication techniques etched on some granny panties. Pins are to be seen; underwear is not.

When I traveled abroad I started to look for underwear from each country I visited. Of course I had a cover collection – patches – but the underwear was the real gem.  Surprisingly, not many countries make huge sales of underwear engraved with their country flag or some other symbol of national pride. In fact of the nearly ten countries toured, only two pairs of underwear stood out: the UK and Spain.

In the UK I did manage to find a pair with the Union Jack on it – why doesn’t every country want their national symbol emblazoned across someone’s crotch? The clerk at the souvenir stop laughed and asked “Are these knickers for you?” The pair from Spain actually played music. My friend and I suspected it was the anthem for the Barcelona Football club. We had this verified by a stranger on the street who overheard our guesses and offered to clarify. So, he held my new underwear up to his ear, verified the song and said, in all seriousness, “You cannot wear this underwear until you can sing the song.” Apparently they take their football seriously…and having a pair of underwear that plays the song with gusto if you happen to cross your legs incorrectly is dead serious.

So, my international collection gave me a couple interesting experiences but nothing that would help me if I found myself in a negotiation…unless I pooped my pants.

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