By Kenneth Justice
~ A few weeks ago I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania visiting coffee shops as part of my Drinking in the Culture Tour, my excuse to get away from the daily grind and experience life all over Western Culture.
I was on break from meeting with readers and fellow bloggers and sitting at an undisclosed coffee shop working on some of my writing when a mid-30ish dude with a heavy German accent asked the young woman sitting directly next to me if he could sit down at her table. She had a bunch of textbooks sprawled all over the table and seemed deep in study. She removed her headphones and asked the guy to repeat himself,
“May I please sit down at your table” he said again
The young woman nervously looked around the coffee shop, there were plenty of open tables available but she nonetheless said, “Sure”.
I watched the guy with interest, wondering what type of pick up line he was going to use next after he had sat down, but instead he merely sat their quietly people watching the various patrons coming and going, while he sat their sipping his coffee. He had a wedding ring on and so I couldn’t help but take advantage of the situation,
“So dude, clearly you’re from Europe because you have a wedding ring on and yet you asked to sit at table with a young woman, and you don’t even hit on her!” I said
“I don’t understand what you mean” he said
“Well, we Americans generally don’t sit down at tables with pretty young girls when there are other tables that are empty. I’m guessing however that its pretty normal for you to do this in your country, or maybe you forgot to take your wedding ring on and you’re actually going to hit on this young lady?” I said
Suddenly the guy started blushing, “Oh I’m so sorry, is it considered rude for me to sit at the table with you?” he asked the young woman
She laughed, “Well, I kinda agree with this guy sitting here, it seemed like you were going to hit on me. Why didn’t you sit at one of those tables on the other side of the room?” she asked
This little interchange set in motion an hour and a half conversation among the three of us in which we shared our own cultural experiences, and as it turned out the young woman had recently returned from a one month vacation in Germany where she had stayed with friends; and she and the German fellow had a lot to talk about in relation to her travels.
The German guy repeatedly apologized to the young woman as he had no intention of hitting on her, “I’m so happily married!” he said, “and my wife will be arriving in another month to live with me here in the U.S.”
Me being your typical Midwestern kid, I would never even think of sitting down at a table with an attractive young woman and then simply ignoring her. But this guy didn’t even think twice about it; he had simply grown up in a culture where sitting at a table with a stranger was as common as sitting at a table by yourself.
It makes me wonder how far we’ve come in the United States where we’ve become so callous and fearful toward strangers. My Drinking in the Culture Tour this year has been one long example however of the kindness so many strangers have shown me. Over the course of the past three trips I’ve been put up at people’s houses and apartments that I’d never met before. I’ve had fellow bloggers who I’ve never met in person extend tremendously warm welcomes to me and have been amazed at the many strangers who have simply taken the time to reach out to me and share their stories and experiences.
I’ve written repeatedly about my frustrations with the modern NEWS media. So much of the NEWS is produced and written in such a way to create anxiety in the public. Even weather reports are often depressing as weathercasters talk about the doom and gloom of the coming weekend; ‘more cold weather and rain’ as though it’s the end of the world.
However, there are real problems throughout the world,
—-) Slavery in the Ivory Coast
—-) Farmers committing suicide in India
—-) Political unrest in the Ukraine
I don’t want to ignore the very real problems that people face all around the globe, yet on the other hand I’ve grown very tired of the way the typical anxiety-ridden NEWS media controls every element of journalism, television news, and major Internet websites.
This past year I’ve tried to present a different take on writing; I’ve tried to present real-life articles about everyday people. People who struggle, who laugh, who get divorced, who get married, who fall in love, and who deal with death.
I haven’t sugar coated the stories I’ve told; and I haven’t embellished them with lies. With a few details changed at times to preserve people’s anonymity, I’ve presented to my readers the simple exchanges I have with people to give you a look into the world around us. A world that many of us miss because we are too busy with work, with children, or with the many errands or television shows that fill our days.
I’m not entirely sure what the future holds, but I believe this is only the beginning. Perhaps the time has come for a new way to share information; an avenue void of anxiety ridden images.
Yet what exactly all of this means…..I’m not really sure yet. At the moment, I’m simply a dude that likes a good cup of coffee.