July 30, 2008

Welcome To America! Now, A Few Things...

I'm probably going to come off as kind of a dick in this post, but I'll take that moniker on for this one. These things just have to be said, I'm sorry.

Whilst living in New York, quite often you tend to forget that you actually still live in America. This is because everywhere you go, you come across people who seem to hail from any nation other than the good ol' USA, and (loudly) speak every god-damned language under the sun other than the Queen's English (except in the richer parts of Manhattan, of course, where only frosty white people are allowed to tread).

Now, I'm no Lou Dobbs. I'm not one of those, "If you can't speak my language, you can GIT OUT!"-type people. I'm a tolerant, liberal-minded guy; I think my previous blog posts, at least, make that clear. It just so happens that in my four months or so of living in this fine city, I've noticed a few traits that just so happen to be shared by groups of people who just so happen to not originally hail from this country. That's all.

For the most part, the cultural diversity is great. I've been able to discover new foods, learn some interesting facts, and just experience a type of life, in general, that I never would've been exposed to in Ohio. But, as with anything else experienced en masse, there are also drawbacks.

They could be easily addressed, I think. Just an addendum to what I'm sure are loads of documents given to them by the Department of Immigration after they're declared legal citizens of the United States:

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SUGGESTIONS FOR AN EASY TRANSITION INTO AMERICAN CULTURE (Cont.)

#277 -- Cell phones do not need to be shouted into.
Society has progressed quite a bit since the days of tying two tin cans together with a length of string and talking about the day with your buddy next door. Today's cell phones have remarkable clarity, and are able to transmit conversations from literally one half of the globe to the other. Unlike the rotary phone or said cans-with-string that you may be used to, it is not necessary to further amplify your voice in order for it to reach the other party, even if the distance between you is very far. Here's a handy tip: While talking, close your eyes and make-believe that the person is standing right next to you. That way, your obviously exciting and fascinating conversation will not have to be shared with every other person in the store/subway car.

#278 -- Children are not normally still out playing past midnight.

The rigors of a full day of school can be trying for the still-developing mind of a small child. In addition to combating long division, social hierarchy, proper kickball technique, and the ever-present distractions of ADD, kids often have trouble adapting to the process of waking up early and participating for hours on end. This is why it's important for your child to get a full night's rest, and not be riding his/her scooter or kicking a soccer ball in the street while the rest of the world slumbers in preparation for the day ahead. Even in summer vacation months, it is crucial that your child stay in somewhat of a school-year routine of sleep. In your homeland, it may have been vital that your child stay up late to tend to the early-rising flock, or fight off hordes of marauding invaders and/or gypsies, but you will probably find that such activities are not very commonplace in urban America.

#279 -- Shoving is not a socially accepted form of communication.

Through the rigorous documentary study of institutions such as National Geographic and Sally Struthers, we here in America have learned that not all cultures communicate with each other verbally. Interpretive dance, sign language, and other non-spoken forms of correspondence effectively let people of other nations express what they need to say. But while it may be OK there to wordlessly shove someone to let them know that they are inhabiting a space you want to pass through/stand in, it is definitely a faux pas here in America. For your reference, in these situations, it will be useful to practice and employ the following phrases:
  • "Excuse me."
  • "Pardon me."
  • "Beg your pardon."
  • "Sorry."
  • "Heads up."
  • "Hey, get the fuck out of my way."
Any of these phrases, even if considered rude, would be preferred to pushing someone in a crowded space and speedily shuffling away while pretending not to have seen the person.

#280 -- Children DO outgrow strollers.

We understand that it can be difficult to accept the fact that your little baby is growing up. The pains of future empty-nest syndrome hang over all parents in this country as well. But while the concept of arrested development is generally accepted and oftentimes the subject of many popular comedic films in America, this idea generally does not apply to the prolonged use of baby strollers. If a child has progressed to the level of walking, he/she should be encouraged to continue this mode of transportation during every short trip. If a child's legs have grown to the point where they are dragging along the ground under the stroller, this should be taken as a sign that stroller days have passed you by. At least for this child in your possibly extensive collection of children.

#280b -- Multiple strollers are not meant to be pushed in a wide phalanx on the sidewalk.
A short addition to suggestion #280: Sidewalks in America are not very wide, in comparison to, say, a street. Accordingly, if you wish to travel to the grocery store, laundromat, or other location that for some reason requires you to bring along multiple female friends and/or family members and their large number of children, you should keep the strollers in a line down the length of the sidewalk, to allow for people traveling in the opposite direction to pass by. It is not acceptable in any situation to walk with three or more strollers aligned parallel to each other, thus taking up every inch of the width of the sidewalk. Also, if you do choose to do this, it it certainly not acceptable to give a dirty look to and/or yell at an attempted passerby who bumps into one of you or your strollers, especially in a language unfamiliar to he/she. That's just mean.
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And so on. Hopefully I didn't come off as too Dobbs-ish there. Just a few things that had to be pointed out. To cap how I really feel, though, I had to throw in this great comic from the usually pretty funny, sometimes mathematical, always interesting web-comic, xkcd:


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