Wednesday, July 20, 2011


About a year and a half ago, my car doors were stolen:

While waiting for police and the tow truck, a woman paced around my car with her hands behind her back, just clicking her tongue and staring at me but not saying a word. She did this for at least an hour or so while we were out there handling the situation.

I thought it was annoying at the time and I was already emotionally fragile from my redesigned vehicle. But since then, I've come into contact with other older women of that culture who do the same thing. One lives down the hall now and I swear she looks at people out her peep hole.

When I was jogging this morning, two people at separate times were walking against my direction on the left side of the sidewalk. I was annoyed and may have even yelled "walk on the right!" because it was already 100* at 6:30am. But I was delirious and can't remember if I did.

I was always taught to walk on the right and have vague memories of being told to get over here as a kid when I was walking in other people's way.  It's one of those social rules that you learn and then do without thinking.

Everyone has run into the "challenge" of recognizing when something is not happening to annoy you but is really just a cultural difference... deodorant, hollering/whistling at women, smiling or not smiling, proper bathroom etiquette (if you haven't encountered that last one, count your lucky stars).

Learning socio-cultural rules, even within our country, happens on a curve... one that sometimes resembles Lombard Street... and my mom always says patience is a virtue.

This is not meant to be a lesson in tolerance, but writing it down helps me to remember that people aren't trying to annoy me. It's your own pet peeve, and you have to own it. Maybe it will help you next time some yahoo from Butte, North Dakota is esca-lefting at Dupont Circle and they're clearly in need of a warm DC welcome.

I leave for Paris tomorrow and look forward to making many-a French cultural faux pas (har, har) while over there- if nothing else, but to share with you.

À bientôt!

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