Three British businessmen, implicated in the Enron Follies, fought extradition to Houston on the grounds that being forced to stand trial in Texas “would be unjust and incompatible with European human rights.” Obviously word of our thumbscrews has been leaked. Their pleas were rejected, so David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby came to Houston and are our reluctant guests. Each is charged with seven counts of wire fraud for allegedly colluding with former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow in a scam that netted them $7.3 million. If convicted, they could get 35 years in the slammer. Of course, the trio is being accused of federal crimes; and if a Houston Star Chamber hearing finds them guilty, they will probably end up in a U.S. Government Prison &Spa.
Then again, if they continue to talk funny, refer to America as “the Colonies” and ask the judge what happened to his white wig, they could be sentenced to Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, especially if His Honor had invested in Enron.
Where they will end up, if convicted, is anyone’s guess. It would be unjust and incompatible with European human rights to be sentenced to a Texas state prison, or worse, get 35 years in Oklahoma. There are other options. We have a big jail in downtown Houston that holds drug lords, Mafia kingpins and the occasional journalist who refuses to turn over her notes to the FBI. (Remember that is the prison that held writer Vanessa Leggett for 168 days.) And we have city jails, a county jail, prison farms and all sorts of confinement centers. Here in Texas, we do love to lock ’em up and throw away the key.
The judge has let the Brits out on bail, but wants them to stay here just in case they are needed for something, like being fit for personalized thumbscrews, and they must wear electronic monitoring devices. Since they will be hanging around – so to speak – in Houston, there are a few things they should know, if they really want to fit in because, as one of their lawyers noted, “They are strangers in a strange land.”
For example, on this side of the pond a “boot” is not a car trunk but what we wear on our feet. A “flat” is a tire (and not a tyre). A “queen” means something totally different to us. A “pound” is not a unit of currency but is where you’ll find your car if you overstay your welcome at a meter. Incidentally, we use “meter” as a length only for measuring artillery fire and track meets. “Chimney Rock” is not an Elvis platinum. In Houston, fish ‘n’ chips is a tuna sandwich at a poker game. “Chili” is not a South American country, is spelled with an “i” at the end, and is served without beans. Speaking of food, a “chicken-fried steak” is not a T-bone cooked by a rooster. As for your electronic monitoring device, just explain that ankle bracelets with antennas are the newest fad in SoHo.
A few don’ts
Don’t say, “Andy Fastow was doing a heck of a job.” Don’t walk into a bar and yell, “Draw!” Don’t be offended if someone says the Buckingham Guardsmen need their Afros trimmed.
Don’t refer to the French by using the insulting term, “frogs.” Over here, they are “spineless snail-eaters wanting a deodorant.” Don’t use your car’s directional blinker.
This brings us to the tale of the Houstonian who was transferred by his oil company to London. The first day he left for work and was driving along when his cell phone rang. It was his wife, who practically screamed, “Elmer, be careful! I just heard on the radio that some idiot is driving the wrong way on the freeway!”
“One?” Elmer replied. “Hell, Martha, there are hundreds of them!”
We drive on the right – as in correct – side of the street. When we refer to drinking “tea,” it is cold, not hot. “Tee time” is different, too. When writing, don’t put a “u” in color, honor or yo. Except for the Alley, which is pretentious, the word is spelled “theater” not “theatre.” And we don’t go to the cinema, watch the telly or call soccer “football.” If TV announcers refer to “blitz,” “long bomb,” “two-minute warning” and “sudden death,” it is probably just a football game and not Donald Rumsfeld’s morning agenda.
(At this point it should be noted that we have stolen some things from England: Their language, witch burning and our school finance plan, Robin Hood.)
Finally, avoid trying to drive out of Houston during one of our well-organized, precision hurricane evacuations, but if you do, remember to keep to the left. Those lanes will be empty.