A report from the Department of Deceptive Appearances


A Norwegian anti-immigrant group went into fits of online hysteria about a photo of women in burkas only to find out that they were looking at a photo of six empty bus seats. Which, to be fair—and I do want to be fair to people with despicable politics and narrow minds—did look a lot like six women in burkas.

“This looks really scary,” one comment said. “Should be banned. You can’t tell who’s underneath. Could be terrorists.”

I’ve felt that way about bus seats myself. And let’s not get started on the seats in New York subways.

Other comments were about whether bombs or other weapons could be hidden under the seat covers.


A group of Catholic seminarians were kept out of a Cardiff pub because the staff thought they were a bunch of guys on a stag night.

To understand this—and I don’t, really, but I’ll do my best—you have to understand that the British have a thing about playing dress-up, which they call fancy dress, making it sound marginally more grown up. So guys on stag nights are likely to dress up in costumes and make a complete drunken nuisance of themselves. So the bar has a policy of not letting in “parties wearing fancy dress.”

At some point, the assistant manager decided they were for real and not only let them in but bought them a round. Everyone involved seems to have decided it was funny–unlike (I’m guessing) the Norwegian anti-immigrant group members, who are still too traumatized to ride the bus.

51 thoughts on “A report from the Department of Deceptive Appearances

  1. We need to ban bus seats high seat backs that look like people from other lands. In the old, and much better days, we used to hide behind newspapers. Now no one reads newspapers and you can’t hide behind a smart phone, so they intalled those ridiculous seats on buses.

    God know what they will put in the hyperloop.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I read the story about the vicars in the pub, I wonder what eventually convinced the landlord that they were real vicars? I thought it was a great story. The empty bus seat one is a little more disturbing, however.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. If it makes any difference to the Norwegians, wearing a burka is a sign of being a conservative Muslim. A conservative Muslim woman would never take a bus without a male relative. So they need to look for 12 bus seats the next time – 6 of which will most likely not be all black.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve long suspected that computers work like that too. There’s some little, little person in there, with–well, it’s kind of like an old-fashioned switchboard, only with more wires and things to plug into.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the Microsoft Office 2003 Paperclip actually – long retired from front line public appearances on screen, but now orchestrating the works deep in the bowels of the PC/Laptop case.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s good to know these things, even if we can’t control them. And don’t understand them. At least now I can nod knowingly when someone else explains it to me, as I’m sure they will.


  4. We need to talk more about those seats. Knowing how those seats are, they were probably a part of both stories. Whats next? Seats in our own homes? Have you been in contact with a seat today?


    • You raise a serious–and frightening–issue. I have been in contact with a seat. I am in contact with a seat even as I type. I’ve become so accustomed to seats that I’ve assumed–until you raised the issue–that they were a longstanding part of my culture rather than a destabilizing foreign influence.

      As soon as I’m done typing, I’ll stand up, tear open the seat cover, and check for bombs. Or bogus priests. We can’t be too careful in these dangerous days.


  5. Can we say for sure where those seats came from? I a lot of bus seats in the US are made in Mexico. We refer to them as bad-hombre seats.You could be dealing with all kinds of potential danger there. As for fancy dress, I may need to pass that onto a friend. He’s going to a business meeting in Cardiff later this year. He’s known for dressing up nice for a good night out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the bus-seat thing. I think I’ll go with “laugh.” It will be a little ripple of positive energy to ward off at least a micron of the nonsense going on in the world at this moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m happy to hear that the photo also looked to you like six women in burkas. I kept on seeing this photo and wasn’t getting it, and then it hit me. Now I’m disappointed with myself because I’m apparently prejudiced against burkas and I had no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah yes. ‘Fancy dress’. Years ago, when I began my British-authors phase (Margaret Drabble is one example. Iris Murdoch another) I couldn’t understand what was going on with the fancy dress parties. Even ‘Rebecca’ has one in it. I mistakenly thought it meant people just dressing up very ‘fancy’ for a party. But there are many other British phrases that are easily misconstrued by Americans who also speak ‘English’: ‘bonnet’, ‘shingle’, ‘jumper’, to name three. And don’t get me started on our use of ‘fanny pack’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What surprised me, as I wrote the post, was that they actually had a connection. I initially put them together only because they were recent clippings and going rapidly out of date. (Not that that would stop me….)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bus Seat Burkas………A new, nefarious invention of Al Qaeda, designed to shock the Westerner, then lull him into a false sense of relief. As soon as he sits, the seat fabric will begin transmitting subliminal messages to button up his shirt, throw away those pork sausages, and pray to Allah. Bus by bus, route by route, Western civilization will be quickly destroyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello Ellen, I’ve gone through a couple of your posts. I love your sense of humor, and the way you write. It’s a world of wit and a kind I think I’ve missed on the blogosphere until now. So glad to find your blog (or that you found mine) :)

    Liked by 1 person

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