I recently made a little excursion in the interest of anthropology. My target was a concrete enclave in the middle of the city. My objective, to observe life in a more naturalistic and archaic environment, outside the technologically advanced existence of my room.
I noticed immediately from their inefficient carriages that these people were not very advanced. Their strange animals with round feet contaminated the environment and cluttered pathways, taking up ridiculous space to transport only a few people. When two of these animals came into close proximity they would start emitting high pitched shrills until one or the other gave way. Thankfully they left these noisome beasts outside the gates of their citadel.
Inside, the atmosphere was very somber. This seemed like a deeply religious place and people entered the main hall in silence.
Theirs was obviously a matriarchal society, as the females looked purposeful and took the lead while the men looked confused and unsure of themselves. The women would enter a room full of wares and start gathering items off shelves with great deftness and proficiency, no doubt as offerings to whatever strange and primitive gods they worshiped. They also initiated social interaction, deciding when to greet acquaintances while the men hung back and exchanged furtive glances, looking almost embarrassed to be there.
The males, soon after entering these confines became busy counting pieces of coloured paper, while every so often sending a worried glance towards their reproductive partners. The trick, as I learned, to using this coloured paper was to get rid of it as quickly as possible. The women seemed infinitely better at this than the men. Perhaps this inadequacy was the reason for their discomfort.
The gods apparently loved shiny things and the more valuable the offering the happier the female devotee seemed, although the effect was pronouncedly different for the males. Value, however had entirely subjective meaning inside these orifices and had little to do with utility. In fact, the more useless something seemed to be, the more value was ascribed to it and the more coloured paper people had to give in exchange for it.
It was all quite bizarre.
Garments and accessories attracted the most attention, and obese women were particularly fond of closely inspecting articles of clothing they would never fit into.
Like all primitive cultures, this one also had a great fascination with metals that glitter. An otherwise useless substance like gold was treated here with all the reverence and awe that man accorded the wheel. Artifacts of gold and silver were the mightiest offerings one could make to the gods. These metals, though not radioactive, nevertheless seemed to emit invisible waves inducing nausea and weakness in the males, as soon as the woman brought the glittering metal to them they would start to turn a sickly shade of green. This phenomenon warranted further research.
As with any rite of passage there was the spirit of friendly competition, the unspoken rule appeared to be that whoever saw an item of interest first would get to acquire it. In case of there arising a dispute, the women involved would make wild gesticulations and strange gurgling noises to get a priest’s attention, who would then intercede on someone’s behalf. But the priest had to be careful in selecting a victor, for the female who felt unfavoured by the gods may consider leaving their temple once and for all.
The younger females, while still busy with the religious rites, were attired in bright colours usually adorned to attract mates. They traveled in flocks, as did the young males with their unbottened shirts and greased hair. But though the females were dressed in a manner that signified sexual availability, their behaviour towards these groups of males was strangely aloof and condascending, as if they found them distasteful, as if they were covered with mold. If a male ever approached a flock of them, the girls broke into a chorus of giggles, prompting the boy to turn a reddish hue and slowly back off, signalling the end of a cultural exchange that still has me baffled.
Sexual unavailabity was signalled by carrying a baby attached to the hip, but some young men intentionally ignored this social signal and followed the unavailable woman regardless. To get rid of them she was either forced to risk a direct confrontation or step into a warehouse where the men would find it exceedingly embarassing to follow her, for instance where female undergarments were stored.
As pilgrimage can be a tiring process there were numerous merchants peddling refreshments and heavily starched snacks on the sides. The younger ones preferred bubbly beverages while the elders of the community imbibed steamy fluids, no doubt to clear their sinuses and ease the rheumatic pains that accompany old age. They were a lazy sort of people, constantly strolling around at a casual pace. I shuddered to think what would happen if they were suddenly faced with a predator, in their current states they wouldn’t be able to outrun a carnivorous plant, let alone a tiger.
They even employed moving stairwells to get from one floor of the temple to the next, unable to vertically carry their own weight.
After visiting a few storehouses where footwear was on display, I concluded that this race of people was entirely impractical about what they put on their feet. The ideals of comfort and efficiency were exchanged for paradoxically self-defeating designs that not only caused pain but made ambulation an awkward task. While perfectly capable of walking gracefully these humans preferred to wear uncomfortable contraptions that made their gaits resemble a disoriented duck.
There were also rooms where many scrolls and parchments, scribbled on with ink, lined innumerable shelves. In here I noticed people indulging in what the ancient tribes called reading.
From other places loud and incoherent music blared from inanimate boxes. The music was lacking in structure or rhythm but the natives didn’t seem to mind. In many savage cultures music is believed to contain the power to stave off evil spirits, perhaps they were right to tolerate it, this music could stave off a barbarian horde.