Monday, May 23, 2011

Culture Shock

One of the things I've noticed while spending so much time visiting Southern California is that while the people are mostly kind, friendly and helpful face-to-face, they become maniacs once they get behind the wheel of a car.  I have never heard so much honking in my life -- and it's angry, lean on your horn, curse words out the window kind of honking -- not little friendly toots to let someone know that the light turned green.  The most common situation I saw was an elderly person making a right-hand turn too slowly, and the impatient younger person behind him or her blasting their horn at them, because God forbid, they made him or her slow down and come to a 2-second stop while they completed their cautious turn.

I think I told you about the multiple car accidents I saw all along a 5-mile route I took to and from the market -- one that happened just a few feet away from me when a car stopped to let me walk across the supermarket aisle.  Another driver thought the car stopped for him, and went.  Somehow two cars T-boned and one car hit another from behind in the process.  The crash was deafening and they couldn't have been going more than 20 MPH.

I also ran into that issue in which people wouldn't give me my space.  I'd park way out in the lot where there were no other vehicles, and before I could even get out and lock my car, all these other drivers would pull into the spaces surrounding me, leaving only a couple of inches between my car and theirs, even though there were plenty of spots closer to the store.  I feel claustrophobic when my vehicle gets boxed in like that.  One time in Mojave I couldn't open any door of my car to get in, because other drivers parked so ridiculously close.   So, I climbed through a passenger side window that I had left rolled down, and slid across to the driver's seat to get out of the tight spot.

Saturday night someone in the neighborhood was having a party and I watched as car after car pulled onto the street to find a parking spot along the curb.  So many people parked right up against someone else's bumper so that there was no way they could get out.  Sure enough, I got woken at 1:30 in the morning as people stood outside my window yelling for other people to move their cars.  There just seems to be a general lack of empathy or consideration of others.  It appears that the phrase "putting yourself in someone else's shoes" is an impossible feat for many people.

I think of all the experiences I had, the one that took the cake happened at a gas station mini mart.  I was inside getting a cup of coffee, and there were several people in line waiting to pay.  A man of retirement age marched in right up to the cash register, cutting off everyone else in line, and demanded that the lady behind the register come out to fix a gas pump.  She said, "If the pump doesn't work, you'll have to move to another one.  I'm sorry."

The man yelled, "Your service here sucks!  I hope you have a nice day!" and stormed off.  (It was a self-serve gas station.)

By the time I got up to the register, the poor lady was blinking back her tears.  Our eyes met and she said, "I'm sorry you had to hear that." 

I said, "No, I'm sorry for you.  No one should be treated that way." 

She said, "I'm here all alone and I have to run the gas station, the mini mart, and the car wash all at the same time.  I can't just walk away from the register to reset the gas pumps."

I said, "It sounds like management needs to hire another person, so that all the pressure isn't on you."

She said, "Yeah, and sometimes it's the first person in the morning who yells at me, and then I feel like my day is ruined."

I've heard stories about the afterlife in which our souls are presented with a sort-of fast-forward movie of our lives, showing every interaction we had with every person, and we are made to feel everything that we made other people feel.  I hope there is some truth to that, so we can at least evolve as a species and become more caring toward others.


Cheryl Ann said...

You are SO RIGHT about the Southern California drivers! Especially near Los Angeles! Oh, my! Out here in the desert, they aren't too bad, but whenever I drive to LOST Angeles, I remember why I moved away! The drivers are maniacs...they are rude, too! That's why I love open spaces!

Stephanie said...

I think that by now I would not be surprised by much that happens but I always am! I am dumbstruck by how some people treat each other... I guess I believe in the old saying what comes around, goes around.

I do also wonder how people can keep up the energy to behave that way, it must be utterly exhausting.

fernvalley01 said...

Hard to see the good in people when you are faced with such careless rude behavior, but you know , that little bit of kindness you showed the teller probably went a long way

Breathe said...

Retail has got to be the most abusive job in the world. It's stunning what people do to one another.

Paint Girl said...

I know all to well about California drivers. Ran into a bunch of them on our way to Scottsdale when we broke down on the freeway!! It wasn't a pleasant experience and I have never been so angry in my life! But I do have to say almost every other state I have driven through or to, I never have had a problem. Maybe it's only a Cali thing?

Leah Fry said...

Well, I'm not so sure I hope that last graph is true. I know I've certainly had my share of rude, thoughtless, discourteous moments. Not so sure I want them thrown up in my face.

Maybe it gets taken into consideration when, as you did with the clerk, you help make someone's day better. I hope so.

Linda said...

I lived in S. Cal for a while growing up and I'd go back and visit my sister later and it was always like that. They drive fast and crazy and if you don't drive like that you're not one of them. In other words, they take pride in that attitude of fast-pace, kick-you-in-the face. Doesn't quite fit with the farm and horse life, so you can imagine I felt like a fish out of water down there, too.

Anonymous said...

Sooo many people don't realize how hard it is to work in retail.. you have to deal with rude, mean people. I think it should be a LAW that everybody should work at least a year of retail, so they know how it feels when someone yells at you for reasons beyond your control.

Once at the grocery store I was behind this guy yelling at the clerk because his steak was bad (he'd left it in his refrigerator for over a week.. didn't freeze it), & he also made the clerk get teary eyed. After he finally left, I jokingly said to the clerk so he could still hear me "how dare you not tell him to eat his steak right away, not leave it for over a week to get bad! It's all YOUR fault!" & then we laughed at him. :) it felt good!

Mean people suck.


Cut-N-Jump said...

I hope your words brought some comfort to the clerk. Had my share of retail in less than 6 months. Dealing with the public sure has it's ups and downs!

Having a bad day and ruining someone elses- sucks. I usually counter with take it out on someone else (like someone that was actually involved!) or keep it to yourself.

We have our share of people from California over here. They drive like crap! Somehow that's our fault? Really?

achieve1dream said...

I can totally relate to the gas station story, although there isn't a car wash at mine. People don't seem to understand I can't leave the register. I just wish people had more common sense and courtesy. Things would be so much easier and nicer.