Culture Shocked (West Coast Bias)
Copyright 2021 by John Smistad
Photo by Annie
Spratt on Unsplash
I am a western USA guy. Born and
have lived most of my
life in western Washington state. Grew up in Texas. Spent a stint
in Salt Lake City.
such, I'm a pretty laid back lad. Easy goes it. Take it as it may
come. On the whole, even downright friendly. That's my lease on
when I took a trip eastward to the tri-state area of New York, New
Jersey and Connecticut, it was a totally different
not gonna say that everybody was overtly rude, exactly. Just way
more direct than I was accustomed to. Yeah. We'll go with that.
example, consider this exchange at the fast food joint drive-thru:
"Hey. How ya doin'?"
Voice: "Wut do ya want?"
Small talk summarily dismissed and dispensed with.
another occasion I found myself at a dead stop and sandwiched in
between two cars on a one-way New York City side street. We are all
immobilized in a traffic jam for which there is no apparent
explanation. And this guy behind me actually starts honking
horn! I turned around in my driver's seat and looked out the
back window to insure that he could see I was laughing at him. He
took a break from leaning on his horn to flash me the customary Big
Apple extended finger "term of endearment". I continued to
smile. He resumed his honking.
cousin Mark, a veteran resident of the region and long-since
desensitized to indigenous behavior, was given his newspaper from a
parking lot valet. This fellow had helped himself to the periodical
from the front seat of his vehicle. assumedly to peruse during his
down time. "Here's your 'Times'", he said matter-of-factly
to my cuz. As we got in the car, I asked Mark if he was miffed at
all that the dude just snatched up his paper as selfishly as you
please. He responded with an air of resignation, confiding to me
that, "I just let stuff like that go. Ya gotta. I've learned. At least
he gave it back. That doesn't always happen. And nobody
like small concessions for which to be grateful to me. However, this
is the frame of reference of a dude who has lived his life at least
2000 miles away from these states of, ahem, "selective manners"
in which I was immersed at the time.
the most truly awe-inspiring moment of my stranger in a strange land
experience came to pass at Times Square during rush hour. Almost at
precisely 5 o'clock quitting time on the nose, as I was casually
window shopping outside the plethora of merchandisers which populate
the famed (or, depending upon the hour, infamous)
The City, all of the sudden it happened. In an alarming flash,
manageable foot traffic exploded into an avalanche of humanity. And
the mushrooming horde all seemed to be marching steadily toward me.
Was I intimidated? Hell yeah. Shock waves of high
coursed through me. But soon something would make itself
progressively apparent. Hey, this is all relatively orderly and
systematic. What was completely alien to me was merely business as
usual for those who do this as a matter of routine, and without so
much as a flinch, Monday straight on through Friday. I walked away,
emotionally a trifle shaken, but bodily, and miraculously,
I boarded the plane to jet back to the people, places and temperament
with which I am familiar, I felt a two-pronged sense of appreciation.
One, that soon I would be back to the comfort and joy of home. And
secondly, that I was leaving a locale that, while (for the most part)
fun to visit, I may never be compelled to experience again. (Turns
out I would make several more return journeys as it happens. But
each time the westward wind would soon be hastening me homeward. And
for that, just like my cousin that afternoon at the high-rise garage,
I am most grateful.)
John Smistad is a published author of short stories,
essays, poetry and movie reviews. He lives with his beautiful family
in The Great American Pacific Northwest. You can read John's eclectic
film critiques at 'The Quick Flick
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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