Boarding the Frontrunner

Monday afternoon I stood on the Frontrunner platform, waiting for the train home. The train arrived, and as the doors opened, I stood to the side, because I have a very useful habit of courtesy when it comes to public transportation.

I waited for any deboarding passengers while I watched two patrons get on without waiting. The first passenger was an Asian-looking man, and the second passenger was a Caucasian-looking woman. When the man boarded first, the woman called out to him, “Hey, ladies first!” The man briefly looked over his shoulder and mumbled that he was sorry. Then the woman replied, “That’s okay; it’s the American culture.”

Maybe it was because the news of inaccurately racist comments toward the newly crowned Miss America was fresh on my mind (for instance, instead of hearing spelling bee jokes [which is somehow less offensive to me because Indian Americans have dominated spelling bees recently, and I love it], all I read were terrorist/Muslim remarks) that this little scenario rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s my slightly progressive way of thinking where I never assume “ladies first”; there are times that I’ll let men on the train before me just because I feel like being kind.

I don’t know anything about these two individuals. It’s interesting that the woman assumed the man wasn’t American, when it could be that the man just didn’t see her, or that he didn’t feel like being kind at that moment, or any number of reasons. It’s also interesting that with whatever assumptions the woman made, she felt prompted to “teach” the man about American culture, which: is this type of etiquette/courtesy a strictly American thing? Why was what the woman said so disparaging to me? Maybe the woman was trying to demonstrate to the man that she was trying to be more understanding, that she was trying to make up for yelling at him.

Am I assuming American exceptionalism where it wasn’t there, and maybe I should just conclude that the woman was trying to be more understanding of someone who wasn’t like her? Do I assume that she thought she was extending a kindness when she did not know its core was offensive (then, offensive according to whom)? Is that closer to the “American” culture?

At the same time, if I had an experience where someone had not observed an “American” custom with me, I would try to be more understanding and think that person perhaps came from a different culture.  Maybe that person wasn’t raised that way, but that doesn’t mean the behavior isn’t necessarily American. And then I’m still left wondering what counts as American, and what doesn’t.

Therein lies so many more assumptions.

Move Along, Just Another Vague Post Here

Could two men have been more polarizing?

Thanks to everyone who voted. To those who didn’t: really?

One time on facebook I posted a biased article about a politician who said a very dumb thing about the very serious subject of rape, and the writer presented the article such that the this politician’s philosophy represented his entire political party. We all say things we regret, and we all latch onto the mistakes of those we want to lose to feel a sense of winning, advantage. We stand on any defeat — at any cost — to gain even minimal height. Definitely, rape is serious, but I wonder just how seriously we should have taken one (or several) politician(s) with a relatively fringey opinion.

I should have been more thoughtful about posting that article.

It must be so, so hard to be the President of the United States. I was president of the Free Club with some of my college roommates, and it was hard. All we had to do was get things for free. We could go to grocery stores and try all the free samples, get rebates, win prizes. I didn’t know how much responsibility I had.

I was nervous for both men. I was ready to support both men. Throughout this election season, I thought secretly, if one wins, couldn’t he appoint the other to be an advisor or something? A member of the Cabinet? Wasn’t one’s healthcare plan modeled after the other? Wasn’t that earlier healthcare plan one of greatest achievements of the one candidate? Couldn’t one use his business expertise to advise the other about fixing the economy? If one wins, couldn’t one consult the other in foreign policy or legislation deadlocks? What would our divided Congress do if these two men actually worked together?

What if?

What the if?

That’s not how politics works.

But that’s how we can work.

If our nation continues to divide, I won’t have a choice but to run for president of my square block in Orem, Utah. I’d construct a soundproof highway barrier that would reduce freeway noise and would still let my citizens see the sunset. I’d also reduce rent.

If we can’t at least seek to understand other points of view and acknowledge when others try to understand ours, then our nation will continue its downward spiral into a pit of poop.

If we sidestep accountability and responsibility in our own lives, families will crumble, and entire communities will landslide into the pit of poop.

If we pray for our country but are unkind to one another: pit of poop.

Are these two men standing on opposite ends of this pit?

Or are a better state and happier times a happy medium of something less poopy?

States of America, we are supposed to be United.

Let us make that true.

We Voted!

He’s wearing purple. I’m wearing red. We aim to confuse.

We didn’t wait longer than 10 minutes in line. We arrived at Orem Elementary School just before 5:30 this evening.

While we stood in line, we talked pretty loudly about some of the headlines we’d seen throughout the day.

We approached the table and our names were the only two Rs on the last page in the R section of the registered voter binder.

The poll worker gave me an electronic card. The machine I used is very different and so much more . . . modern than the machine I used when I voted in NYC. What was this fancy touchscreen? Why didn’t I have to walk into a booth and close a curtain and use all my brute strength to vote?

I spent maybe at least 5 minutes voting/playing with the fancy machine. I watched the ballot print through a little plastic window. I removed my electronic card in time for a poll worker to check a number on the machine I used. Apparently I was the 47th person today to use that machine.

Reilly waited for me just outside the gym/auditorium/second cafeteria where voted.

We ate. We came home. We took a picture.

We feel pretty good.

From My Window Last Night

In Provo, we celebrated pretend 4th of July on the 2nd of July. I don’t feel like explaining why the big party couldn’t be on real 4th of July. There’s a big event called the Stadium of Fire, and big guest stars show up and sing then fireworks go boom in the sky and it’s apparently a lot of fun.

I think this is my first time in Provo during the 4th of July. Maybe I was here sometime in the 90s, but I honestly can’t remember that far back without pulling my cerebral cortex.

Anyway, everyone was off doing something, and I have a pretty good view from my bedroom window, so I turned off my light and waited for the show to begin. I didn’t get to hear any of the accompanying music – I do like patriotic music – but I also missed the performances of David Archuleta and Brad Paisley. I’m sort of bummed about Brad Paisley. Dude can play a guitar.

The fireworks lasted about 20 minutes, and here are the last 3 minutes or so. What I like about pretend 4th of July is that I get to see a lot more fireworks shows on real 4th of July. And I’ll keep remembering all the ways America is awesome before returning to feeling that a lot of Americans are not awesome. That kind of blind patriotism doesn’t only apply to America; I saw it in Africa, too, but mostly among the kids, but they were kids, and we don’t have any excuse, really, because it’s not just our kids who are acting like that. I’m not absolving the adults from being lousy examples to their kids, because they’re adults and they should understand their responsibility to bring up children to be healthy thinkers and honest and community members and not zealots who base their decisions on fallacy and ignorance. I’m not knocking gratitude or democracy or a lot of the things that make America a great country, because America is wonderful. Keep being grateful, but just stop being stupid. You know who you are.

Because Globalization Is Important

Sharing cultures is a wonderful experience, n’est-ce pas? Yeah, we’re Americans. We found various ways to not assimilate. And most of the time, it was fun. And sometimes it felt like home. And doesn’t everything American make the world a better place? Couldn’t Americans also find ways to be better through other cultures? I may add to these lists later, but here’s a start.

-Napoleon, donne-moi tes tots!
-Cherche les tiens!
-Non. Je meurs de faim!

So, we were on our way to class one morning, and very randomly, after Sarah and I stepped off the school bus, we started quoting Napoleon Dynamite in French. It got me through that two-or-so-hour lecture in a dark classroom. By golly, if I couldn’t talk about geopolitics in French, I can certainly quote a dorky American movie. A+ for me.

“And I was like baby, baby, baby, oh
Like baby, baby, baby, no…”

NON. NO. NO. No. Please stop singing that song. Stop sounding so cheery when you sing it. Stop sounding exactly like Justin Bieber when he sings it. Why are so many of the women who are returned missionaries singing this? Why does Justin Bieber sound like a woman? And how do they know so many of his songs? I sealed my lips and clenched my jaw. And I brushed my hair on behalf of Justin Bieber.

“Hey, Macarena…”

They taught. The village kids. The Macarena. There has got to be a better way to westernize and/or modernize old cultures. Or maybe in some aspects we should leave them alone. Maybe they’re better off knowing one of the worst line dances ever (the absolute worst being the Cha-Cha Slide). But to be fair, both parties benefited from dancing and laughing together. I was glad they schooled us (4-1?) in a soccer match.

Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Pringles

We personally didn’t bring these over, but they found their way ahead of us in order to comfort us. BECAUSE WE NEEDED COMFORT. These were familiar tastes, and they kept us calm. And less nauseous.  But I don’t think I’ve ever drunk so much soda in all my life.


We probably helped Senegal set a record for how many times the people used the word Toubab. Sort of like Gringo. With me, they had different guesses: Japonaise (4), Chinoise (2), Corée (1). So, that was fun.

So, what temporal influences did Senegal have on us?

1. Brushing our teeth with bottled water
2. Baguettes. I will be just fine if I don’t see another baguette for a long time. (Though I do miss taking the sacrament with baguette bread. Which is probably wrong to say, but it’s true.)
3. Akon. Yes, kids. He’s from Senegal.
4. Yassa poulet. A chicken dish with rice. I probably ate it at least four times and may never eat it again.
5. Vendors. They were seriously traumatizing. The harpies on Gorée were the worst. Then maybe the guys who led us into a sweatshop warehouse. All true stories.

I Had A Spam Comment Today Waiting for Review

And it went something like this:

Thanks for possibility to write on your website,
I read some of the posts and I think it is great!
I haven’t been up to anything recently.
Anyway thanks for the post.
Here is my site:


Well, I disabled the link that my newfound friend left as a part of her signature, but I left it the blue color that trademarks the drug she’s advertising. I mean, I could have changed the type all to black. But Ms. viagara has read some of my posts. She writes truth! I know this! She made the effort to tell me what’s up in her life (BAD pun not intended), and, she thanks me for writing AND thanks me for letting her comment. Showcase the spam, leave her name in royal blue: it’s the least I can do, right? Wow, it’s SO easy to make friends.

In other news, I applied for a passport today. I waited less than 20 minutes in line. Downtown, at that federal post office building on Church Street. 20. Minutes. Not too shabby at all. Bureaucrazy is not dead, but maybe was out to lunch. My attendant was an Asian woman named Ms. Lui, and she was as helpful and patient as can be. It is truly a day of miracles. That brown booklet, that 10-year ticket to ride should land in my grubby little paws in about a month. World, you are an oyster, and it is mine. MINE!

I hope I can find some time to write meatier stuff this weekend.

Oh! I’ll be visiting Jacksonville April 24-27. I’m very excited.