December 28, 2006

The Curse of Oil

She had one of those scrubbed-up, warbling voices from the Northern Plains, full of flattened vowels and Scandinavian resolve, and it made me think of Fargo. The vast backdrop of Peterbilt trucks and speedboat auctions, the envelope of fresh November snow. The family restaurants feeding the great American stomach a steady diet of hometown pride and manky coleslaw. A postcard from the Great White North.

I couldn't remember the last time I bought airline tickets over the phone, and the whole thing felt a little odd, and profoundly inefficient—like something my parents might do. But I was flying to Nigeria, and if you want to fly to Nigeria, you have to buy your ticket the old-fashioned way. Even if you found the fare online, you have to book your seat over the phone and then go down to the airport to pay for it.

"So what is it that's taking you over there, anyway?" the operator asked while we were waiting for one of her screens to come up. "Business or pleasure?"

"Business, I suppose," I said. "I'm doing some research."

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