Congressional staffers are accustomed to handling complaints from constituents. But aides to a New York congressman jumped last week when they got a long-distance voter-in-trouble call. It was from Iran.
The problem, the caller spluttered, involved himself and a business colleague. They had arrived in Tehran after the hostages were seized. And people weren't being very nice to them.
All they wanted, the caller said, was to do their business, make their contacts, and leave. Business is business, the man in Iran said. They were Americans and he demanded that his member of Congress do something to open doors, and smooth paths for the commercial travelers.
Things are really tough for businessmen in Iran these days, the caller screamed. People don't keep appointments. Service in hotels is lousy. And to add insult to inquiry, he said, now he and his friend were having trouble getting airline bookings so they could leave the country. Really, he said, this is too much! He's an American citizen, he said, and an important businessman. He demanded that the clerk in Washington pull some strings.
The staffer was stunned by the pettiness of the complaints -- and the stupidity of the business types visiting Iran while 50 Americans enter their second month as hostages.
"What should I do?" demanded the businessman in Iran, adding that he didn't have all day.
"Call the American embassy," the staffer advised the businessman. "I'm sure someone there will be happy to take care of you!" End of conversation.
The man hasn't called back.