In an office building in downtown Minneapolis on the way up to my optometrist's office, there are two young men from some country in far southeastern Europe or far western Eurasia riding upward with me on a very slow-moving elevator. The inflection of their voices remind me a little of the old Steve Martin/Dan Akroyd "Wild & Crazy Guys" bit, though they are speaking in their native tongue, not English. They are in their mid to late 20s, and my hunch is that they hail from someplace like Moldova or Bulgaria, or maybe even someplace on the other side of the Black Sea. I cannot place the language, but is is definitely not Russian or Polish—it's more unusual than that. They talk to one another quietly in deference to my presence, but with great restrained animation. I cannot understand any of the words—except for a notable phrase that pops up out of the middle of nowhere.
"Ce crezi că am făcut aseară? Am băut vodcă și pastile gobbled. E ceea ce fac mereu. Și băiatul, nu am plăti prețul. Ar fi trebuit să urmat sfatul: "JUST SAY NO ."Това е, когато разбрах, че току-що мойш си грозна сестра."
"Ha ha ha ha ah. Ha ha ha ha ha." Both young men laugh heartily, but with attempts to stifle it out of consideration to another elevator passenger not in on the joke.
Then the second one responds. "Невероятно. Това е, което аз осъзнах прекалено-I е трябвало да заяви JUST SAY NO. Когато погледнах надолу и осъзнах, майка вашият ме минет Без да си протези."
More peals of muffled laughter, while they looked sideways at me with some sheepishness.
Americans need to be very careful. Thirty years after the fact, this ridiculous "just say no" catch-phrase from Nancy Reagan's ill-advised and vicious war on drugs is still circulating around in the conversation of young Eurasian men. I feel a little morose to see that this, of all things, is a piece of American culture that has persisted in the larger world. I hope against all odds that I don't now hear "thousand points of light" come out of their mouths.
And then I recall some of the recent sound bites from Donald Trump, and I begin to feel quite ill over what might infect the world in the near future.