Today I bought laundry detergent.
This would hardly be worthy of a blog entry except that it led to an insight of sorts. As I stood in the German supermarket in front of a row of cleaning products, I thought: This is what it feels like to not be able to read. None of the product names conveyed any information to me whatsoever. Which was for cleaning clothes, which for cleaning toilets, which for cleaning windows, which for cleaning me? The only way I could tell was by pictures, which were in short supply on the containers. Finally I found a tiny logo of what I hope is a washing machine and not a dishwasher (or possibly a xerox copier) and I bought it. I hope it doesn't do awful things to my tee shirts and jeans.
This was a profoundly unsettling experience. I can't remember a time when I couldn't read, a time when I didn't read voraciously. Last night, when it was windy and raining and I stayed happily in, I was reading an SF novel, Hunter's Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham. The book was absorbing and satisfying. It's difficult for me to imagine a life where that experience doesn't happen nearly daily. And yet for millions of people, presumably it doesn't. Half of India, to take just one example, is illiterate.
My purchase is called "Perwoll." I hope it's intended for laundry.