For the last seven years I have lived a transient lifestyle. During a period of four consecutive months I would live in a place no longer than two weeks. My clothes took permanent residence in my suitcase, knowing exactly what to contain to max out at the airport’s 50-pound limit. I was once on an airplane and the woman seated next to me asked where I was headed. I paused for at least a minute, wondering where I was going. I couldn’t even remember where the plane was flying. Munich, Milan, Queenstown, Sydney, Istanbul, Denver, Philadelphia, Barcelona, Sochi, Frankfurt, Zurich, Newark and LAX all flew through my brain. I asked her for the destination, and when she said Philadelphia I remembered that I was going home. She looked at me like I had three heads, and did not speak to me for the rest of the flight. It was probably for the best, because I felt pretty insane in that moment.
I have traveled all over the world, but I have only ever had one home. I’ve taken up many residencies in apartments, hotels, condos, and houses, and even stayed in a few for a couple of months, but my home is in New Jersey, with my family. I am very attached to the word “home,” and when someone mentions the word I have a picture that pops into my mind.
There is a distinct comfort that comes from reality fulfilling expectation. If I book a hotel in Europe and find that the rooms are small, like I had expected, I am content. However, upon my first trip to Europe I expected a lavish, comfortable room, and got a bed that was no more than the size of my body, and two inches away from the bed of my roommate. My reaction was comical, and while standing in the undersized sprinkler that was a shower, staring at my towel that had the dimensions of an open textbook, I wondered where my expectations had gone wrong.
In these terms, my experience of place was frequently satirical. In order to better understand my argument, I am defining place according to the New Oxford English Dictionary as “an area that has already been identified.” Therefore, a place having already been identified means that there are expectations about that place. In my hotel room debacle, I could attribute my shock as a satire of my naive trivialization of the world, or the stereotypes that I had believed, evidenced by the disconnect I felt between expectation and reality. In this way, satirists can abuse the expectations that we formulate of a place in order to introduce a form of criticism. This can be accomplished by creating new places and hoping the shock of the audience will bring light to the difference from their expectation, or by placing an incongruous situation in a familiar place. The aim of this work is to understand the effectiveness of satire on expectations of place by using examples that satirize different aspects of the places we think we know.