Monday, January 19, 2015

8 (Russian) Things I Do Whenever I'm In America

1) Genius Cash Amounts At The Cash Register:  Allow me to explain.  Let's say I am buying a shirt that costs $17.84.  If I don't have $17.84 in exact change, I will pay $18.11.  In doing so, I will feel a bit like a Mother Theresa/Stephen Hawking hybrid as my mind boggling blend of benevolence and mathematical resourcefulness will have helped this  poor cashier live yet another day.  If I have no change and I am buying a pack of gum, I might pause with a look of deep shame and say something like, "I am so sorry... You wouldn't have change for a 10, would you?"

2) I Stop My Car (Nearly) Wherever I Want:  Let's say I want to change the radio station.  Or check directions.  Or look for something on the (car) floor.  Or just stop.  And let's say said behaviors happen when I'm in a massive and mostly empty parking lot or on a side street.  What do I do?  I just stop my car and do it.  Now, I know it would be safer for me to do this if I first pulled off to the side, put some cones around my car and a blinking sign on the roof that says "THIS GUY ISN'T DRIVING RIGHT NOW", but I never do any of those things.  I just stop right there with my foot on the brake and go about my business.  In Russia, this is completely acceptable.  That is because Russia is a free nation full of creative people.  The Russian folks behind me simply assume I have lost consciousness due to a medical emergency, and sensing that they will be of no help, simply pull around me.  In America, the driver behind me will pull up behind me, come to a complete stop, and exhibit the patience of Job as he (or she) waits 5-10 seconds before laying on the horn.  Never mind the fact that the state of Texas is all around us with perfectly smooth asphalt as far as the eye can see in all directions and there is nary an automobile in sight. That driver (behind me) can only see that his future journey leads through that exact section of the universe that my car is presently standing on.

3)  Soup Consumption Takes A Baffling Turn:  Whenever I eat soup in America I always have to pinch myself and quietly repeat the rules:  1) Don't ask for the mayo.  2) It's okay if there is not a mountain of bread and potato salad.  3) When you are finished with your soup don't say, "That was delicious! What else are we going to eat?"

4) I Look For A Lady Who Can Seal My Wife's Purse In A Plastic Bag At Wal-Mart:  Actually, I've never done this. I totally know how to act in America.  But I do remember walking into Wal-Mart behind the love of my life.  She immediately went up to the greeter and asked in a no nonsense business-like fashion where the lockers are so that she could turn in her purse.

5) I Cut In Line:  This is only partially true.  You see, America, you don't know how to stand in line.  You look like the cattle on a thousand hills studying the chaos theory.  It's time for you to close up the ranks.  How am I supposed to know that you are wanting to order a McRib when it appears you are simply loitering at the condiment stand?  Get up close and personal with the person who is presently ordering, and then I will know that you also came to this fine establishment to eat.

6) Repeatedly Reconfirming Appointments:  I remember I was taking some Russian friends for dessert (in Russian: "tea") at a home in America.  I had made the arrangements with my American friend a full two weeks before and had not seen him or spoken to him since.  I was literally sweating bullets as we pulled into his driveway.  Did he remember?  Shouldn't I have called yesterday to reconfirm?  And then again this morning?  What if something urgent had happened in his life?

7) I Secretly Wonder If I Am Being Too Informal When I Use the Word "You" With Someone Who Is Elderly: Unfortunately, I have found no alternative to this word that is shockingly bereft of all respect of age or social class.

8) Discard Paper Products in the Waste Bin:  I do this at least once every time I visit the land of the free and the home of the brave.  I mean, why else would you have the basket there anyway? If I do this in your home, you may not have even noticed as, and may I address this issue in the most discreet of terms: "the brown side does go on the down side".  If you know what I mean.  Later on though, I join in your general mockery of the American waste water system as I toss every care aside, together with the used paper projects, into the swirling recklessness that your sewage system has become.  Conversely, if you are an American and plan to have some (Russian) visitors and you want them just to discard in the john, remove the wastebasket from the water closet.  They (the Russians) will then understand what to do with the TP.  It's like a secret code.

What (Russian) Things Do You Do Whenever You're In America?



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