Sunday, November 26, 2006

People of the South

My dad just got back from a European mini-tour; he drove back from Germany to Romania, and thus got to cross Germany, Austria, and Hungary. My sister (who has seen these countries before) asked what shocked him the most in his travels. He said, in all these countries, what was a general shock was the fact that people are so cold! He said, nowhere could he feel free to just … open his mouth to make small talk and just ask about the weather! He said he felt lonely abroad, and thus happy to be back home. I remembered that he never felt lonely when he visited me; actually, he wanted to stay here, and never return home!
We, Romanians, love to chat! And not being able to carry conversations with complete strangers at least about the weather is crippling to us! It’s a personal offense, like those people don’t “want” us in their world; we are “not welcome”, we are not “good enough” for them?!. And THAT is just hurtful! We love to share, to ask, we’re nosy, we’re friendly, we love to hear about your day! My sister lives in Canada, and she commented to dad’s disappointment: “well, dad, this is the West, in general, for you! People are cold here, in Canada, too. Very much so! The only place on the planet that I have seen so far, where people are welcoming and warm and friendly is the American South. Only there complete strangers will ask you how you are and ask your opinion about the weather”.
And I have to completely agree with her. I have traveled Europe, North America, and some of Eastern Asia and I have to agree: only in the American South people do make small talk to you! Not that I like it ALL the time! Some days, I want to just read my trashy magazine, thank you very much, rather that tell you about my failed marriage and my ex-boyfriends and my canceled plans for the weekend, so you can bask in the self-righteous “boy, she’s SUCH a loser” at the end of my monologue. But it’s true: when in a room with strangers or in an elevator, here in the South, you can bet on one thing always: there will NEVER be a thick silence with embarrassing starings at the ceilings! Oh, they won’t necessarily CARE, but that’s NOT going to stop them from ASKING! And we’re people, not solitary islands, out there in the Pacific, with no hope to ever meeting! We want the human touch and our most distinguished capability from animals is the ability to speak, and communicate through an articulate language. So, I think we all are designed to “keep in touch” and bridge the individualities that we are! It’s a human trait that most of the world seems to forget about nowadays, in our speed-driven lives.
And you know, for a Romanian like me, who loves to talk, and share her life, coming from a completely alone 4 day weekend, on Monday morning, that kind of chit-chat is MORE than welcome!
One more reason to be grateful for where I ended up living! (Thank you, ex-husband!) You gotta be grateful for the small things… and small talk, for that matter…:-)

Monday, November 13, 2006

What do the rivers of Heaven flow …?!

I have been sitting on this piece for a couple of months, because I was fearing I was going to be judged as spoiled and picky, but then I said: what the heck?! I am judged, I am sure, as a whole lot worse than that, so … I’ll send it out there!

This might have been just as well entitled “Angry and thirsty, stranded in the midst of America” – it would have been just ironic!
So, here I go:

Have you ever heard of or come across a fast food restaurant that “don’t have no water” for a drink with your meal?! No, no, nothing fancy: a glass of water, ice or not … a cup of ice, even, empty?! No. Not an option! They literally refuse to offer anything that comes in cup but is a different liquid or concoction other that the punch buttons on the cash machine tells them it needs to be! That restaurant is a “A&W restaurant”, and this particular challenged location I found in the Detroit, MI, airport. They don’t have bottled water, nor TAP water to be offered to the customers with their food. I guess their taps, over there at the “A&W” restaurant in Detroit, Mi, only provide root beer! I guess if they ever wash their hands in there, they must just make do with root beer, because you see, water is in such shortage there!

No, no, I cannot choose the option “no drink with my meal”, either! I am PAYING for the drink, thank you very much, while the person next in line GETS IT, since I don’t want any sodas or juices. No, I am paying $1.50 extra for my shitty sandwich, but if I choose not to drink it, SOMEBODY, by God, HAS to have it, because the little person at the cash register, HAS TO fill up a cup of SOMETHING for SOMEONE with this particular chicken sandwich … so the guy behind me gets a root beer AND a sprite – or something like that! Because “no drink” is not an option on the machine, either, you see; and they MUST punch SOMETHING in in order for the total to show up!

Next time when YOU hate YOUR job, think about this dilemma: dealing with a sorry ass picky damsel who cannot f*&^5ing pick a damn drink and cannot get you to the bottom line when you have 5 people waiting in line to order and missing planes left and right! Think about THAT, for a change, people! :-)

I am standing there, in awe, and I don’t want to be mean, but I wanna scream at the top of my lungs: “Use your brain, people! Someone put it in your head for SOME kind of reason! USE it, or else it’ll go stale! Just like that water on the tap pipe that is not released in my shitty cup right now! Wasted!”.

So, I order my sandwich – see, it’s in the computer, people are waiting, plane is leaving in 20 minutes, guilt trip – I am ordering, OK!!! But no water. Well, yeah, sprite, actually, for the person behind me. Me: no liquids! No, for that, you have to “go next door, ma’am, they has bottle water down there. Next door”. So, I am waiting for my sandwich, and going next door for another charge of $2 for a bottle of water, although I have paid $1.50 for a sprite that the person behind me is now drinking, out at the “A&W” joint!

I guess the little woman at the “A&W” counter was not trained to be faced with the picky bastards that by chance might order water instead of the sugary drinks – what an abomination, overweight America!!!!! Water? Geez!!! Who in the Heck orders Water in a fast food place nowadays?!? Who do you think we are, lady? MacDonald’s?! So, she didn’t know any better. Never in the whole training process was she ever told, even in passing, “use your common sense” or (pickier yet, Geez, Alina, who do you think you’re dealing with here, Homo Sapiens, by chance?!) “brain” – no… She was told: punch the buttons! Since the buttons don’t exist, make the damn picky bastard customer MAKE up her damn mind, or send them “next door”! Pretty simple!

I guess in the big wide world of Fast Food Heaven, out there at the “A&W” headquarters there are rivers of coke and sprite and root beer just flowing every day, uncontrollably! They’ve never heard of “water” up there at the corporate level of “A&W”. In the “next door” Heaven, however, at the bagel shop, it’s where they have the streams of water instead, and THEY afford to bottle it and sell it for $2 a piece, too! And satisfy the picky bastards over there, in that renegade Heaven! But not here, in this sugary, sweet one! No, ma’am! We don’t do water, or … empty for that matter! Up in here we just punch buttons! We can’t punch buttons that don’t exist, ma’am! There’s no way!

Man, and I was thinking I was coming home (I was coming from abroad on that sad trip which landed me in Detroit, MI for a brief hour or so) to the land of opportunities and all possibilities! I guess, in a way, and by some root beer-loving folks, I am doing JUST that!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I’m “single”, NOT “stupid”!

Yeah, you heard me: single NOT stupid! I know they both start with the same letter, but God help you if you get them mixed up! With my fiery temperament, I have no tolerance anymore for people who get that mixed up, or assume I am stupid, anyways, single or not…
So, I get into this car crash, right?! And I need a rental, right?! While my car is in that shop (luckily not totaled). So, Mr. Rental Car Guy shows up to pick me up at my door, and take me to the Rental Car place to rent the wheels that are going to get me through the one month ahead. And Mr. Rental Car Guy decides to flirt with me, although he’s probably 24 and I am … much… his senior. I don’t say my age; I am not asked. I am “assumed”… I guess: young, stupid, and gullible!
He proceeds to tell me (I never asked!) that he was in fact offered scholarships “for academics” to universities such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and 3 others (I stopped listening after Harvard and Yale, all right!) and to Auburn, Alabama (figure THAT!), UNC and 3 others for “athletics scholarships”. And in the end, he chose … Guilford College! He is from Mobile, Al, originally! So, of course, he would choose a Southern school! Ok, why not Auburn or Alabama, you might ask?! I did too! Ask myself, that is! I was too busy stifling the laughter in his sad face to ask HIM! He goes on to tell me that he chose Guilford College because of the “community work” they do! Forgive me if I am judgmental, but although I am not really familiar with that program, I know you can be of help to the community if you, as an individual choose to do so! And to refuse such pristine education in favor of community work that you might do anyways, along with the pristine education seems highly unbelievable to me. Ok… I am being judgmental!
Then, he learns I am bilingual, and he proceeds to tell me that in fact he speaks 5 languages fluently: French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and American sign language; oh, yeah, and English of course! An by the time he is 40 he would like to speak 10 languages all in all, but he already has gotten a heads start on Japanese, of which he speaks some. I wanted to say: “Just because you can say ‘Merci’ and ‘Bojour’, it doesn’t mean you’re fluent in French!” – but again … busy laughing within myself…
The entire time, I am looking at this guy, and with all his “Athletics” scholarships under his belt … I cannot see an athlete in him! I see an acne face, beer gut, couch potato, second class rental car clerk who’s trying really hard to overcome his Southern accent.
How stupid do you think some people must me to believe you turned down Harvard an Yale for a no-name private college with no history to speak of in Sports, either, just to graduate and rent cars for a living?! Oh, yeah, the reason for working for the said rental car place is: “they plant trees”. Hhhmm… ok!
I just never understood I guess the pathological liars. Do they need to make THEMSELVES look good to THEMSELVES?! Because to us, they just dropped down a few HUGE notches as plain idiots!
And as for the single part: do you think I’d rather date a Harvard drop out than a real Harvard grad?! Or do you think I feel better renting from a Harvard drop out than from a Harvard grad?! Why even drop the name, dude?! What’s the point?! And take this piece of advice from someone old(er than you): if you at any point got an acceptance scholarship from Harvard, do yourself a favor and frame it and hang it right next to your Guilford College degree! Trust me: it’s JUST as impressive!
But for now: you’re just sinking under the weight of your own name dropping! So: good luck swimming …!