Friday, May 4, 2007

Matt Lauer was doing his annual "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" travelogue this week, instead of reporting on actual news. On Wednesday, Matt was in Bhutan, a country that you probably first heard about on Wednesday, and will never hear about again. My guess is that Today's producers chose Bhutan because it's a nation transitioning to democracy — peacefully — under the auspices of its royal family, and the Bhutanese recently held mock elections for practice. The Yellow Party won and the Red Party was the runner-up; the Blue Party came in third, and just like in America, the Green Party came in last. Goddamn Nader!

After visiting Italy last year, I've really wanted to do a lot more traveling. Like everywhere: I bookmarked the Lonely Planet website and everything. Bhutan isn't exactly listed in Tourism for Dummies; the country only issues six thousand tourist visas every year, is pretty unfamiliar with comforts of modern life like electricity and roads, and is physically challenging to get into in the first place. But that's part of its appeal over, say, Disney World. It was early in the morning, I had to go to work, and I was grumpy when out of nowhere, I asked Mom, "How come Matt Lauer gets to go to Bhutan and I don't?"

"Because Matt Lauer has a good job and you don't. Once you get a good job, you can go to Bhutan, too." Which is bullshit: when you have a "good" job, they expect you to be at the job, and not trekking the Himalayas in Thimpu. I decided to call Mom on it.

"You have a good job. How come you don't get to go to Bhutan?... Or anywhere else for that matter." That shut her up for a little while, until Matt Lauer starting talking Bhutanese politics again.

Bhutan is moving towards democracy because the Dragon King Jigme Singye Wangchuk is abdicating his post and installing his son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Nagyal Wangchuck as the head of state. Matt pointed out that Jigme Jr. is the world's youngest head of state; he's twenty-six, less than a year older than I am. "Look at this," Mom said, still with that early-morning half-pissed facetiousness, "He's twenty-six and he's the king of a whole country. What have you accomplished?"

That shut me up. It's probably not as depressing as being in your fifties and walking into the office one day to discover that you now report to a twenty-six-year-old hot shot just out of Harvard Business School, but still. Ouch. I felt a little more cataplectic than usual. I'd make a good king of Bhutan — at least for someone who knows zero about Bhutan; I'm a fast learner — but it looks like that position is already taken.