Thursday, September 27, 2007

Culture shock



Coming home was a horror. I’d been looking forward to going back to NY for days, maybe even weeks, but it was awful. As I tried to board my plane from Oaxaca to Houston, security forced me to leave my molcajete behind because it was in my carry-on and it was too late to put in in the luggage I had already checked. But I managed to be Zen and get on board, reminding myself how crowded my kitchen is with gadgets, except that two hours later, I arrived at an American airport where everyone was decidedly not Zen. The girl in front of me in line at immigration made a constant stream of loud, unpleasant noises about how she was going to miss her flight. The sense of self-importance was frighteningly, recognizably American. When I went to the cash register to buy my NY Times, the clerk looked at me like I had just given her yet another reason to hate her life. I sat down in my seat on a crowded plane for the Houston-NY leg, and the elderly woman next to me barely mustered a response to my hello, my English translation for the “buenos dias” I’ve gotten so used to saying to anybody and everybody. (To be fair, she was quite nice to me later, but I’d gotten so used to the Mexican way of assuming everyone is nice, instead of waiting to see.)

It got worse. For our “dinner/snack,” Continental served “pizza” and a “salad.” I am not putting those words in quotes to be cute. There was something seriously demented about the “food.” The pizza, which was supposed to be steak and cheese, also declared that it was “Made with Ranch Dressing.” And they’re bragging about this? It made the bready slice of Papa Johns pizza I had gotten before the flight seem like the finest Neopolitan pizza in retrospect.

I considered eating the salad, trying to garner at least some nutritional benefit, but as I looked at plastic container filled with pieces of iceberg lettuce and a few sad shreds of carrot at the bottom, I realized I would lose more than I gained by putting the creamy dressing on it. I was better off eating the little Kit-Kat bar for the calcium in the chocolate.

The worst thing about it is that everyone else ate their snack, all of it. They were hungry, I’m sure, and maybe they didn’t even notice how bad it was. I almost felt like rising up, like a labor organizer, “Demand your rights to decent food! We don’t have to put up with this!”

But I didn’t. Welcome home.

3 comments:

Isaac said...

Welcome back to the world of Taco Bell and Wal-Mart, G! Sometimes I think we have the worst mass culture on the planet.

Erin said...

Oh man, a vicarious shiver went down my spine as soon as I saw the picture at the top of your post. It's always the re-entry part of culture shock that gets you, eh? Estoy pensando en ti, amiga.

AppleSister said...

Gracias a ustedes! Since I spent yesterday eating a bagel, Korean raw-fish bibimbap, and a big bowl of Korean cold noodles, I feel much better.