Friday, January 18, 2008

Excuse Me, May I Cut In?

Asking if someone can cut in line in front of me is not something I have encountered yet here. But I have been cut in front of plenty of times. It seriously frustrates and perplexes me to no end to have to deal with this. I don't like it. I plain and simple hate the practice and wonder where in the world did these people lose their manners to when it happens. Hondurans seem to be in general pleasant people. I haven't encountered many with a major chip on their shoulders. At least that I could tell anyway. But I ask myself where this rudeness come from?

It seems that the practice to cutting in line is not reserved for those who lack education, economic security or a rank in the upper classes in Honduras. No, in fact, if you have wealth, status and education sometimes it makes people think they are entitled to cut in line. The 1st class syndrome. Such as at a bank where employees might know who you are and where you rank in society.

I understand some practices where you should try to serve elderly, the handicapped or maybe even a pregnant woman first and make accommodations. I've been there and always appreciated the faster service when I was pregnant. I also have let people go in front of me if they have one or two items when I have a cart load. I would like the same kind of consideration, but it usually doesn't happen; but I'm not grumbling about it. I don't mind letting people in when it seems appropriate and a nice thing to do. I really do think I have some of that Minnesota nice that people talk about. I don't like to step on toes or rock the boat.

A while back we attended a wedding. After the service they served a meal. I was astounded by the line cutting going on. Papa and I got in line and after 10 minutes of not moving while we watched more and more people move in front of us, I took Brother and went to sit down and wait it out. Another 5, 10 then 15 minutes went by. We were maybe within the first 30 people when the line was originally made, but suddenly nearly 1/2 the people at the wedding were sitting down with food while Papa and many others who were waiting patiently in line still stood waiting. How did this happen? It was almost transparent to see. Papa talked to the grooms step-father about what happened and how it could have been handled differently. But that's the problem. No one does anything about it especially when it's happening.

Half the problem with line cutting at stores, it seems is that employees allow it which enables the practice to continue. I have been standing in line to pay at a department store and literally been stepped in front of. The girl at the register did nothing to stop it and helped the offending woman first. This has happened a few other times and I never said anything about it. I felt a little helpless because I didn't speak Spanish well and couldn't really say what I was feeling. I felt intimidated because I was the foreigner and felt it might not be my place. But I've lived here for 7 months now and I guess I'm starting to feel less intimidated or things are just really starting to grate on me.

This brings me to the experience I had yesterday. I had to run to a nearby grocery store for a few things. I didn't go to my regular grocery store because I was just getting a few things and I wanted to get back soon to feed Brother his lunch before nap time.

This particular grocery store (cough...Maxi Bodega) is not the most efficiently run place. Usually I wait forever in line to pay. 1, because they don't have enough registers open and 2, they take forever to ring up and pay especially if people are paying with a credit or bank card. So yesterday they had two registers open and they were about 5 or 6 people deep each. I get in line and wait patiently. Somewhere in the time I was waiting some people stopped and started to talk to the couple that was in front of me. I heard them say things that made it sound like they were just running into each other. They weren't shopping together. I was eying them and sure enough. The man in front of me stood in front of my cart as his wife moved up to pay for their things which allowed the other people's cart in, in front of me.

Something snapped inside and I said, "mmm mmm. No. No esta bien". Which means "No, it's not okay". That is about all I could think to say. But they continued to push in front of me and I continued getting more loud, "pardon, no esta bien!". They looked at me like they didn't know what I was saying and then I just started in with English. I started telling them it was rude for them to cut in line in front of me without even asking and that these people need to get to the back just like everyone else. They continued to move forward. The man and his wife were saying things about how they don't speak English and I am not Honduran so what do I know. At this point a manager came over probably because I was on the loud side and the whole front of the store was now quiet and listening to the crazy gringa.

He comes over and speaks a little English. He talks to the people and turns to me and says, "well, they are family." I don't give one rip if they are family. Either these people need to have some manners and ask me if they can cut in line or they need to get to the back and wait their turn just as everyone else is doing. I tell him this in English, but I don't think he understood. What gives them the right to do that? If they had asked me if they could cut in line, then they would also have to ask the lady behind me if they can cut in too. Then maybe it might have been okay. I might have felt totally different if they had just made some acknowledgment of me. The woman behind me had a whole cart load and I'm sure she was not liking them cutting in either. Or who knows, maybe she didn't care - but I did! It's hard to remember that I'm in a different culture and what I consider to be rude and what drives me bonkers, might have little to no effect on other people. It's a common and accepted practice in Honduras to cut in line so maybe it's me that just needs to cool down. It's so hard though!!

Then the manager walked away and I guess that was their pass to continue on in front of me. It's funny how they were acting. They were looking at me yet still moving. It was like telling a young child to 'come here' when they are looking at you and stilling moving away. Doesn't that drive you nuts when kids do that? Anyway, at that point I think the only thing that would have stopped the whole thing was if I physically stopped them. But that kind of scene didn't need to happen. But I sure did continue to let them know that I was not happy. I called my husband to vent a little who also shares the same feelings about line cutting as I do, except maybe times 10 and he's Honduran. He asked me to put him on speaker phone and proceeded to give these people an ear full. He is so protective when it comes to his family. They seemed completely dumbfounded. Shocked that someone would react that way? I don't know what they could have been thinking. I ended the whole scene as they were finishing up paying with the best Spanish I could pull by saying, "if you asked me, then yes, okay. But you did not ask and it's not okay then". Maybe they understood. Maybe they didn't care. But at least they knew I was not happy about it.

Call it a temporary moment of insanity where I lost my "Minnesota nice" for a few moments. I really am that nice person. Really. As I got up to pay I felt like the whole front of the store was watching me. They probably were. I noticed that they opened another register and the lines weren't deep anymore. I just paid for my groceries and walked out of there with my head up. As I got out the door I got a few more looks from people that had seen the whole ordeal. I got to my car, packed up my things and was on my way.

I'm sure everyone enjoyed the show of the crazy gringa going off on some poor folks for cutting in line. I'm sure it won't be the last time I'll be cut in front of. But yesterday I wasn't quiet about how I felt about it.


La Gringa said...

Hahaha. I've had a few moments of temporary insanity, too. My Spanish completely escapes me in those moments, making it even worse.

I laughed out loud reading about your husband telling them off by speaker phone! El Jefe gets very irritated with people who are rude to me, too.

I agree that it isn't a class thing. Remember I wrote about one of the richest women in La Ceiba shoving me out of the way while I was on crutches with a cast up to my knee.

It's something that you just have to get used to because it seems to be accepted by everyone and rarely will anyone ever say, "No, she was first."

Grandma Sprout said...

Oh, dear! I'm so glad you're usually Minnesota Nice! You weren't raised to be such a hellion but I do wish I had your chutzpah!

Joanna said...

Ha Ha, this one cracks me up. To you it was probably a very frustrating situation, but to us readers it's very humorous. Picturing you trying to get the right spanish words to say and then going off in english is just comical.

It sucks that cutting in is normal there. Good for you telling them it's not ok.

coco said...

My Gosh I can totally relate with this post! This happens quite rarely with me, but when does, I give the store clerk as well as the person cutting in a piece of my mind. Cutting in line is just not acceptable, unless you've got a good enough reason and ask permission. And when I'm done yelling, I feel so proud of myself for trying to tame them for their uncouth behaviour.

I feel really sorry about your language barrier, but hats off to your husband to have the presence of mind to give them what they deserved.

Really interesting post. I first scrolled to see the length of it, but one I started I was hooked! :)

Honduras Sprout said...

LG~ I'm glad I'm not the only one that has had little melt downs.
I remember you talking about that lady. It's just so baffling.

Mom~ You know I've always have that little spitfire girl inside -huh? Just doesn't come out in public usually.

Jo~ I suppose it might be humorous. Now in retrospect. I think writing about it helped me process things a little.

Coco~ I went to bed thinking I probably bored everyone rambling on and on. It was a long post.

Not sure if I made any difference in their line cutting practices, but maybe they will think twice before cutting in front of a gringa again.

Anonymous said...

I just happened across your blog and couldn't help commenting on this this blog entry. You have no idea how much better it made me feel. I have lived in Mexico for several years with my Mexican hubby and I had a melt-down just like yours about a month ago. Similar circumstances. It was my first official melt-down in a grocery store and it must have been building, given how furious I was.

I had been waiting a long time for service, then I let one man pass in front of me because he asked and he had his little grand-daughter with him. Then a woman with her grown daughter and son-in law sneaked in at the wrong end of the line-up and proceeded to try to get served before me. I firmly told her to go around and get in line like I had done. She kept arguing with me saying it was okay that she would just be a minute. Right. Finally at my insistance, the cashier told her I was, in fact, next. (Wow, that's unusual in this culture for anyone to tell a line-cutter who was next and who wasn't) She finally disappeared and the cashier and packer pretended there hadn't been a mini-scene there!

I thought it was all over when I heard the daughter-in-law make a derogatory "gringa" comment. That did it! Let's just say it didn't go well for her after that. Her husband hustled her off down the mall, after she had first learned a few new English words, which she seemed to understand completely. My husband looked at me in astonishment when I got home and told him how I had reacted, but then admitted I had done the right thing to stand up for myself. I think it was finally necessary for my own sanity to actually let someone have it. "Step away from MY turn in line and noone gets hurt!" :-)

Honduras Sprout said...

I love this! "Step away from MY turn in line and no one gets hurt!"
Glad you found me and thanks for your comment! What a relief to hear someone else with a similar story :O)

Sla said...

Youre my hero! I totaly understand what you went through, and im a honduran myself.

Sla said...

Youre my hero! I totaly understand what you went through, and im a honduran myself.

Suzanne said...

What a post! I'm from Illinois and understand the concept of "Minnesota nice"..... I found out on my recent vacation in the Caribbean that it's actually "Midwestern nice". A man from the east coast (U.S.) gave me a nice little speech about how he admired and respected Midwesterners because of their manners, their "nice" and their values. I thanked him and agreed.

HOWEVER, nice just goes so far when dealing with people who don't get it or don't practice it. I've been reading other Honduran tales that tell of standing in line for hours at a bank. Truth be told, I'd flip out sooner or later.

I love the image of the crazy gringa with the cell phone on speaker...ha ha ha. Good for you. I'm putting you in charge of educating Latin America on Honduran at a time!

- Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife

Honduras Sprout said...

I think you are right about the midwestern nice. I enjoyed reading your comments. I feel a bit more "nice" since this happened. I learned by lesson, I guess you could say. There have been a few incidences since but oh well, I just gave them a "oh disculpe". They knew I didn't approve. You can't change people I feel that don't think it's wrong in the first place.

Anonymous said...

but catrachos aren't interested in rules about waiting in line. it's not our places as gringas to enforce a value that doesn't matter much in this society. obviously you have a heart for hondurans and honduras, so i wonder why you can't just let stuff like this go. it was hard on me for the first couple years too, but you have to let it go. getting angry only makes you look like the bad guy, and it certainly doesn't help our general reputation as estadounidenses. buena suerte with future encounters.

Anonymous said...

sorry if that last comment seemed discouraging. i just feel discouraged in general when i read so many blogs by gringas who aren't very excited about living in honduras (or who demonstrate a bit of condescension toward hondurans, even when their husband is one). in your case, it was probably a smart choice to go back to the states for a while, and i hope you can find peace about things like this.