Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stories from Arizona

Anytime you travel, even if it is just a few miles up the road, you notice differences in the way people behave. Visiting Arizona was interesting. Everyone was very friendly and helpful -- almost too friendly. It scared me a little bit. Everywhere I turned people were offering to help me, even when I didn't know I needed help. I'm a very independent person and don't expect people to insert themselves into my activities. Where I come from in Nevada, nobody has the spare time to help others.

When my daughter and I went to West World, a man driving a cart offered to shuttle us from the parking lot to the front entrance. I climbed onto the back of this cart since I wasn't sure how far away the entrance might be, and instantly regretted this decision as soon as the man stepped on the accelerator. I fell into my daughter, and frantically grabbed for the seat next to me. It was that equilibrium thing again. The ground was whipping past my feet, my stomach felt like it was about to explode, and I was getting dizzy. I almost yelled out, "Stop! Let me off!"

Internally, I was having a total panic attack. I breathed deeply, trying to calm myself. Fortunately, several people walked or drove in front of us, so the driver had to slow way down. By the time we reached the gate, I was shaking all over. Up until that point I had handled driving through the dark on an unlit highway, flying in a plane, riding on a bus shuttle, driving city freeways in a rental car, and getting totally lost on both foot and in car. Who knew a motorized cart would be my undoing?

My daughter has been on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride with me, so she's used to me practically sitting on her lap and clinging to her whenever we are in small, fast-moving vehicles.

From that point forward, anytime someone offered me a ride, I politely declined. They argued, and eventually I'd have to fess up about my err, ummm equilibrium problem. I'm sure some people would call it a mental problem, but this feels very physical to me.

I quickly learned not to show an interest in any vendor's booth. While attempting to read the menu at a food cart, the salesman became so obnoxious that he wouldn't let me finish reading the menu. He just kept yelling at me, "Come get a hot dog! Soda! Come get this or that..."

I shook my head no, and he said, "No? You don't eat?"

I just wanted him to shut up long enough so that I could finish reading the menu, but his aggression scared me off. There were several horse related booths where I might have purchased something, except the salespeople just wouldn't let me look. Everyone had this attitude that I must be looking for something in particular, and they wouldn't stop following me around asking questions so that I could just browse. When I feel overstimulated, my reaction is to run away. Several people blew some sales by talking to me while I was trying to think. If I can't complete a thought in the space where I'm at, it's time to move on to another space.

One night I had dinner in a bar. I'm not the type of person to hang out in bars, so it felt weird having this bartender giving me so much attention. I ordered the obligatory alcoholic beverage with my meal, knowing I didn't need to drive anywhere that night, but felt uncomfortable eating dinner in a bar while all these drunks around me were losing their inhibitions and saying embarrassing things. Thank goodness for the Olympics being on TV in the bar. It gave me a chance to watch something other than the people around me making a disaster of their lives.

When I found a supermarket to save some money on meals, there was a clerk stocking shelves on every aisle I turned down. The manager of that store obviously trained them to not let anyone pass without offering to help them find something. So, I'm not kidding you, just about every 20 seconds someone was offering to help me. I just wanted to browse. I was busy calculating how many meals I wanted to buy in order to avoid eating in restaurants. As soon as I'd get an idea of something that would make a good breakfast or lunch or dinner, someone would interrupt my thought process and offer to help. I didn't have a shopping list. I didn't know what I wanted, but I know better than to tell a salesperson that I don't know what I want, because next thing I know he will be doing my shopping for me without having any clue as to what my diet and tastes might be. So, I just kept repeatedly saying, "No, thank you."

The same guy offered to help me three times, and even went so far as to try to force me to buy a huge loaf of fresh-baked bread I didn't want. I guess most people aren't as sensitive about getting their space and time to think, like I am. I'm so overstimulated with my job that when I'm on vacation I want to rest and be left alone. That's hard to do when people are in your face all the time. So, I quickly grabbed a few food items and hurried back to my hotel where I could hibernate and rejuvenate like a good hermit.

I wanted to find something quiet to do since I had spent the previous two days doing a lot of driving. I chose to get a little sun out by the pool. It's been years since I've sunbathed or gone swimming. I had grabbed a swimsuit out of my drawer as an afterthought while packing for the trip, and hoped that it would still fit. It turned out to be a good move, as I was able to spend a few hours sunning, spa-ing, and swimming. It was heaven just floating on my back looking up at the palm trees while airplanes flew overhead.

For a while there were two young college-aged couples out by the pool and one of the men kept staring at me, which made me feel uncomfortable. I was so glad when he left, but he eventually reappeared on the balcony overlooking the pool, and each time I looked up, he was still staring at me. So, I went back to my room to hibernate again, and made a point of triple-locking the door. The hotel poolside was starting to feel a bit too much like my paddock back home with my nosy neighbors watching my every move.

On another morning my daughter and I stopped at a restaurant. Before I could even get out of the car, I was being asked for money by a panhandler. Then we went into the restaurant, and a lady approached us to ask for directions. We had to fess up that we don't live around there, so we can't help her. She just stared at us, and then continued to ask us for directions. I made a suggestion, and she argued with me, so I turned away. I just wanted to eat some breakfast. I didn't want to start off my morning arguing with a confused stranger. That restaurant was starting to feel a bit too much like my mailbox turnout back at home, where drivers always stop me to argue over directions, when all I want to do is pickup my mail and then get back to work.

While at the horse show, the announcer kept telling people to keep their hands and feet inside the arena, to be quiet, and to not run in the bleachers because it scares the horses. She had just finished making this announcement and a young boy behind me started swinging his legs against the metal bleachers making a loud banging noise. I looked around and his parents were nowhere to be found, so I shook my head at him and he stopped.

On another occasion a young boy and his toddler sister began slamming down the backs of seats in the bleachers. It was so loud that my eardrums felt like they were exploding. The girl was too young to understand anything I said, so I told the boy they have to stop, because they were scaring the horses. They didn't stop immediately, but continued playing with the seat backs, just more quietly. Eventually they settled down. I know how upsetting it is for someone to spend years training their horse, attending equitation lessons, and saving up their money to go to Scottsdale to compete, only to have their chances at the championship ruined because some irresponsible parent let his or her children run wild in the bleachers, spooking horses.

On my flight home, I was a little concerned when my pilot seemed to purposefully swerve the airplane back and forth up the runway on take off. I wondered if he was drunk. The ride was relaxing for the most part, then out of the blue the plane pitched sideways to the left, then sideways to the right, left again and right again. When I say sideways, I mean one wing was pointing at the ground. This was some scary shit. Two flight attendants walking down the aisle fell on top of each other. I had my seat belt on, but I fell forward at an angle and the lady beside me was confused as to whether to catch me to help the flight attendants. I almost threw up. Fortunately, the pilots got control of the plane and then came on over the intercom to explain that we had hit another plane's wake. We had to climb to a higher elevation to get out of it.

I didn't even get out of the Reno-Tahoe Airport without getting into a tangle with another driver. It was ridiculous. There were only two of us and four lanes, and this other driver would not let me change lanes so that I could get on the freeway. He just kept doing these crazy maneuvers like we were in some kind of a race and his life depended on getting ahead of me. All the way home, other drivers taunted me and made incredibly selfish moves. Someone was always tailgating me, trying to push me into going faster. Several people cut me off. There was a lot of impatient revving of engines and drivers weaving in and out of traffic. I instantly got into a crabby mood.

Then I realized that with all that driving I did in the Phoenix area, not one person tailgated me, no one pushed me or cut me off, and most drivers actually gave me my space and yielded to me even when they didn't have to. In fact, most everyone drove the speed limit or less, even though I didn't see more than one officer on the road during the entire trip. Whenever I was unsure of my route, other drivers slowed to give me a chance to decide which lane I needed to be in.

In Nevada, if you put on your turn signal to change lanes, the drivers in the lane next to you speed up so that you can't get in. In Arizona, if you put on your turn signal, the drivers slow down and wave you in. There is just a general sense of decency that I get from the people in Arizona. People seem to actually care about one another. When my daughter gave me a tour of the university campus, every person we passed stopped to say hello and introduce themselves to me. Maybe it's all that sunshine. It makes people cheerful.


Leah Fry said...

I understand what you mean about getting overstimulated in large places. I don't like malls at all, but I avoid them like the plague at Christmas. And why do they all feel like they have to bathe in perfume? I always feel like I can't breathe.

Nice pix of the scenery.

JeniQ said...

Ha! Another person who is just like me! I'm a "Please don't talk to me unless I approach you" and if I want help I'll ask for it type of a person.

I too have a very stressful career. I manage a technical customer support group for a software company. My team consists of two full time salaried employees, one co-op, and myself. We support close to 10,000 customers. We do not escalate anything to anyone we resolve 100% of all cases at our level unless it requires code change.

So like you I value "my" time and don't want to be bothered with all the crap that human interaction can bring.

Breathe said...

I feel the same way about the east coast as you do about Reno. It would kill people to be polite in DC and Baltimore.

Of course friendliness also has the flip side of being a bit intrusive.

Mikey said...

We are a friendly bunch! Perhaps overly friendly/nosy. I know what you mean about letting people in, in traffic. We always make it a point to do that. But heaven help the person who is rude. I remember going very slowly pulling out when Mercy was just a brand new baby. Some idiot was speeding thru town and threw up his hands at me, because I was going too slow. I stopped the truck, pointed at him, told him this is MY town and he better slow it down. We're friendly, but we tolerate no nonsense.
That said, this is why I'm always having adventures. People do stop for other people, and you end up acting like you've known them all your life.
I had a flat tire once out in the middle of nowhere. I was working on changing it when this cowboy stopped. He insisted on taking over (I was wearing a dress) and when I protested, he told me "Ma'am, I just CANNOT let you do this". He was almost distraught at the idea of me doing it myself, even though I was perfectly capable. He was very sweet and I did let him change my tire. Never saw him again.
We may take it a bit too far sometimes. I can see where it would be overwhelming. You get used to it though. I searched high and low for powdered milk in our local grocery store. Couldn't find it. Next trip, I was greeted at the door by my favorite cashier. He hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, told me I smelled good (he did too, and I told him so) and he asked if he could help me find anything. I said YES, where is the dang powdered milk? He took me by the hand and led me straight to it. Gave me a pat on the back and went back to work.
It takes getting used to, but I find it nice to feel so much a part of a "family" here.
You ever consider moving here? We'd love to have you!!! You could ride 350 days out of the year!!

Cheryl Ann said...

Beautiful photos of the Arizona scenery! We are going to Prescott over my spring break, which is the first full week of April. Until then, it will be STRESS, OVERWORK, and more STRESS!!! ACK! I can't WAIT! We really love Arizona. I never noticed the people there asking a lot of questions. Must be my stern teacher-look that drives them away???

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Mikey - I have considered it. Both my kids could attend any university on earth, and they both have chosen universities in Arizona. I guess my biggest concern is that it might be too hot to ride horses most of the year, but if that's not the case for you, I guess I don't have to worry about it. I also worry about snakes and backing my horse into a cactus, but there are different risks everywhere you go. I suppose that's better than tornadoes,tsunamis and 8.8 earthquakes.

Paint Girl said...

I also noticed right away the friendliness in Arizona. I actually really appreciated it, since where I am from there are so many rude people and drivers. I totally could move to Arizona, but I don't know if I could handle the snake situation. I would probably have to call Mikey all the time to remove them!
Your pictures of the Sagauro's are great!! I wasn't able to get any close up pix of them, so I have to see them through you! I wanted to bring a baby cactus home!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

ps Your cactus photos are gorgeous! And they match the topic of prickliness in your post perfectly.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You said 'Shit'. I don't think you've ever said that word in the year or more that I've been follwing along with you. Wow! That must have been one scary flight.

I felt the same way when I was preparing to land in Reno. I started to pray!