Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rudeness, politeness and hanging out.

Went out this morning to buy groceries and by the time I came back I was pretty ticked. Sometimes I honestly think that all the manners left this country with my Mother-in-Law 46 odd years ago. She is so delightful, but she seemed to have gotten the quota.

OK OK, I know...the place is DIFFERENT. Just 'cause they don't do it the same way I do it, doesn't mean it's wrong. I know. Just sometimes it still feels RUDE. I went out the door this morning and three of my neighbours are talking...I see them all the time and talk to them all the time, two look away and only one said Hola. My GOD, WHOBROUGHTYOUUP? If I did this in Canada it would be the gravest insult to my neighbours. I got down to the grocery store, it is first thing in the morning and they are stacking the shelves, fair enough, but they made absolutely no effort whatsoever to move or adjust the crates that were entirely blocking the store so that I could get to the produce. I actually found myself wondering if I had accidentally wandered in while they were still closed and they were just too polite to say anything. Now don't get me wrong. Some of the service in North America makes me want to puke. It is so in your face, and obviously insincere, and the walmart greeter syndrome makes me enraged, but it is simple politeness to get out of someones way when they are obviously standing there to get past...for along time. Never mind customer service. WHOBROUGHTYOUUP?

Then I am checking problem, the check out lady is lovely and everything goes fine. I am packing my bag, when some old *%#* lady, no actually she wasn't old at all, she was probably in her late 60s and spry, she is sort of shouldering me out of the way as we are packing our bags, the store is small and there is little room, but I have a lot of stuff, and I am going as fast as I can. Well, just as I am going, I have a knapsack on that ways a solid 25 lbs, and I am carrying five grocery bags of food, when the vinegar falls to the floor, and rolls under her feet. Does she bend and pick it up for me? NO Does she even move out of the god damned way so that I can pick it up easily? NO. In CASTILLIAN I get, "Your vinegar fell".(I seem to be turning into a Catalan nationalist to boot.) So I put down my bags, grovel around on the floor under her feet for it, and stagger out to repack my bags. HOW I WISH I SPOKE THE LANGUAGE! I was lightly rude to her, but NEVER NEVER NEVER would someone get away with that with me in English. *Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth* WHOBROUGHTYOUUP?

Have I mentioned that the town is nearly vertical? Well I had to stop about 6,000 times on the way up the hill home, and NO I NEVER EXAGGERATE. At one stop, this man comes out the door, staring openly at me, like your three year old does at a one legged man, jaw hanging, neck periscoping...staring unflinching, not one of those corner of the eye jobs in the subway...I mean REALLY. He cruises by me, and as he is almost out of my line of site, going right next to me, still staring...I am burning angry by now...Turned, stared him down...."HOLA..." I nearly bellow in his face. O.K. Not nice, he was stunned and startled.

"Wow the freaky foreigner can speak!!!!! He gives me a shamed and quiet Hola and scuttles off down the street.

The husband kindly says that I am so beautiful he probably couldn't help himself. Very sweet of him, and definitely good husband tactics, but come on....lets not be silly here.

They stare here, openly like you would never let your child. I get it less than I used to, but man WHOBROUGHTYOUUP?

It is such a mix here, everyone ALWAYS says hello and goodbye every time you go in or out of a store, but this intermittent greeting in public has me confused. In the Bahamas, away from tourist areas, you always always always say hello, and you chat for a while before you start you business, always. It is so polite. It makes you feel glad you've seen the people. That is how I explained it to my daughter one day. There is nothing like having kids for making you clearly examine why you do things. One child or the other was resisting whatever social more I was imposing on them at the time, asking WHY do we have to follow all these rules. The bottom line is that other people should be glad you came into their lives today, not sorry and angry that they saw you. I have to say, there were several people today I was sorry and angry that they were in my day.

I also have to wonder why I keep implying that it was their parents fault...possibly the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent 40 years of totalitarian rule had some impact.

In reality, it was a very unusually grim cross section, and I will normally only get one incident like that a week. The vast majority of people have been and continue to be extremely friendly and helpful and open. Today though... well, I was a wee bit grumpy. I will also admit that this could have happened anywhere, and life got better. We ordered the birthday cake for the older child's upcoming birthday, and got her much needed new shoes as well in town, without having to spend the day busing to the nearest larger center. Hung out with the husband and the kids, and we watched Tootsie tonight, which none of us had seen before. I have also been reading a book of Bush bloopers. Let it be said that we've had a few laughs today. Who brought him up?

A very nice day with the family.

One more thing...who writes the messages on computer programs anyway? Actually I think I do know someone who does that.....I just logged into a site, and apparently a "fatal error occurred". Now, my heart is still beating, so unless someone else died when I clicked on "sign in" I am not really sure what the heck that is supposed to mean. I truly thought that fatal errors invariably involved someone dying, but apparently not.

At least I hope not.

Maybe I shouldn't have confessed to causing that fatal error....

It wasn't me, really.


Jocelyn said...

Best of all, I like your asking who brought up George W. Heh-heh. And you'd never seen TOOTSIE? Wow! I thought that was mandatory mid-80's viewing!

Helen said...

I am so impressed at the amount you write? On a previous theme (as I catch up in clumps) we are going to sing with the student choir at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna so are going to try out a multi lingual version of Happy Birthday tomorrow ( it is the only song every one can probably sing in their own language with no work required) - not sure how many languages we will get but it should be between 10 and 20. Babel here we come

Beth said...

You were brought up very well.

Manners = civilized = kindness.

And I love what you teach your children about what they should bring to peoples' lives every day.

oreneta said...

Jocelyn: I do wonder, one of the stories had him in Quebec at a fancy dinner, he sits down at the table, opens a bottle of water and chugs it back straight out of the bottle!!!!

Helen: No friends nearby=lots to write....

Beth: Thanks to my Mom and Dad...

Joanne PL said...

Hiya - know just where you are coming from my dear - as you can imagine. I still have serious trouble with the greetings thing - as I have heard that women don't generally greet men first here in Poland - so I sometimes when walking around the neighborhood don't greet first - but then if I don't they tend not to at all - so I do - and then some of them look slightly taken aback - but what the hell!
The other thing to keep in mind when you feel like people are not making room for you as you would expect is the comfort zone thing - which in Europe is close to zero - whereas in North America is about 1,5 metres in all directions.
My zone has totally shrunk (well not to zero - but short of people BUMPING into me over and over in line I can take almost anything) - and I noticed it when I was shopping in Chicago. This lady came up and stood about 1 metre away from me in a quite wide aisle - and just stood there. I was wondering what she was doing when she, finally exasperated at my total thickness, said very sarcastically - "EXCUSE ME" - and I realised that she actually felt like there was not enough space to go around me! I was feeling like I was standing in a 6 lane highway, Very strange!

oreneta said...

Oh it is so good to hear you telling me these things. I know it in my head, but sometimes....


Love ya

Nomad said...

Great Post!!

These social rules of ours are so ingrained as to be almost invisible...sometimes the deeper ones really can rock your world...gosh WHAT exactly is RIGHT anymore...really makes me think.

What fascinates me is all the invisible historical and social context at work that makes whatever way IT is.

What is NORMAL??

So very very interesting.

oreneta said...

Nomad: that is the nutshell of the problem...what to us is unforgivable rudeness may or may not be a snub, and it is hard to discern you end up second guessing, which I do sometimes, or just doing an internal scr*w you all, i yam what i yam, which is also useful at times, and not at others...

Normal seems to depend on where and when you are, and it is fascinating, and frustrating....