November 28, 2011

Rules or Some Such

Every place has its rules, whether you’re in America or elsewhere. Break the rules, and the penalties can vary. Fines. Judgmental stares from others. Maybe you don't even know you are living by a set of rules. “I live by my own rules,” you say. Wrong. You are a textbook nonconformist. Take a hike.

An Example:
I’m from The Crystal Coast, North Carolina, and we like our barbeque. It's got to be made with spicy vinegar. That's the rule. But see what happens when you go to South Carolina and try the barbecue. They like it with mustard. Maybe you don’t like it. Heaven forbid--maybe you do. What next? The rule says you move the family to South Carolina. Change your facebook status to “Barbecue Treason.” So long. Enjoy the fireworks. Don’t forget to send your mother a birthday card.

As you may know I am Caucasian. On time I asked an African-American woman how she was doing and she says “I’m blessed.” I made the mistake of interpreting this as a competition, and proceeded to seethe in anger."I'm blessed too, damnit!" Her answer had a strange affect on me. I'd never heard it before. Maybe this particular woman grew up saying this her whole life.Imagine that.
    My new rule is to think twice before jumping into a blind rage. Now I'm blessed, too.
  • I live in Dusseldorf. I play by German rules, without full knowledge of societal rules. But I'm learning. Here are some mental notes:
When you go out to eat with a German, they tend to keep both hands above the table. Keep one hand below the table, and they will be suspicious as to what you are doing with that hand.

Don’t look around like a stargazer when you’re walking down the sidewalk. People have made a point of knocking me with their shoulder, as if to say “stay focused, pinhead. The answers are not in the stone garlands and naked nymphs peering down at you from the buildings.”

If you’re an old man, wear brown shoes and walk with your hands behind your back. If you’re an old lady, buy a dog that looks like you, then dye your hair to match.
  • I used to live in China. I don’t know if I lived by their rules or not. As a white man, people stared at me. Basically my very existence was a spectacle. That's an exaggeration. Here is another.

Don't set the place on fire. Don't urinate on it to put it out. Fine. But who visited this scenic spot that made the sign necessary? Never mind. I know these people. Maybe this list started with 3, and gradually grew to 7. The problem, I believe, is that these restrictions are too specific. 

I'm going to put a sign on my bathroom door. These rules have not been violated. They are purely for my entertainment. Here's what it will say:

Three seems to be enough, although I could narrow this down to one:

Be respectful to the surroundings and try real hard to keep your pants on in public.