March 12, 2010

Shameless, Downright Shameless

Yesterday I pulled my most overt stunt of pretending not to understand what was being said to me.  After dropping Ari off at school, I was in a hurry to get home but the bus was taking forever to come.  When it finally did come, there was a solid wall of people at the front door and no way to get on the bus.  Story to be continued...

This is how the bus system works.  You can buy a ticket with cash if you want to, but most people have a bus card with money on it.  When you get on the bus, you swipe your card and it instantly takes the money off.  On many buses, there is also a machine to swipe your card at the back door.  If there is, then you can also swipe your card when you get off the bus.  If you do this, you get a kind of a "discount".  Normally people get on at the front door, swipe their card at the front door, and then get off at the back.  If there is a machine at the back you can swipe your card on the way out and get the "discount".  If there is no machine at the back, there is no "discount". (If you are wondering why I am putting the word discount in quotes, it is because that is just the easiest way to describe it).

Sometimes people will get on the bus at the back door and swipe their card on the "going out" machine.  This was my plan when the bus came and there was no room at the front.  So I ran to the back and got on, ready to swipe my card... but there was no "going out" machine on this bus.  I made the split second, less honest, decision to stay on the bus anyway (what a shameful MCCer!).  I figured that with such a packed bus they wouldn't notice the loss of my $0.06, and besides "it's not my fault that there is room at the back and not at the front!"

Well, as sly as I was, there is a camera on the back door and the driver saw me pulling my little stunt.  Over the loudspeaker system, he told me that I would have to get off the bus and refused to close the door or drive the bus until I did so.  Maybe I have absorbed the Chinese concept of "saving face", or maybe I really just didn't want to get off the bus and wait for another one.  All I know was that in that moment, all I could think was how embarrassing it would be to get kicked off the bus.  So I blandly pretended to be completely unaware of what was being said.  I pretended to be confused that the door was not closing, then stared blandly into space and stood my ground, well aware that everyone on the bus was staring at me (some of them chuckling into their sleeves).  After a very long and very awkward moment, the door closed and the bus started to drive.  

Only then did I realized what an embarrassing position I had put myself in, and that I had probably just reinforced the other passenger's beliefs that foreigners are completely inept.  I felt the type of stinging guilt that a seven-year-old might feel at stealing a 5 cent candy.  And to make matters worse, I hadn't even done it secretly, but bold faced in the witness of 50 or more people!  I feel a wave of embarrassment just thinking about it!  I got off the bus one stop early and made myself walk the remaining distance.

If I were my own parent in this situation, I would probably admonish myself with this ageless piece of wisdom...  "Oh little Jessica, this experience was its own reward.  I think you have learned your lesson!"

1 comment:

derrydown said...

Poor little Jessica! What could you do?