May 25, 2010

My American Journey. Summer 2010. A Travel Diary - The People

Hm, the average American person is a strange thing to define. In general, the people are pretty weird here. They have this peculiar mindset, a mixture between tolerance and hypocrisy. The public mindset is one of an overexposed ease, as in "I don't care what others think, how I look or behave" and in the same time there are constant comments that I observe behind people’s backs. This desire to display how socially eased one is at many occasions borders with neurotic behavior. For instance, there is a great number of people I see on the streets and in the bus that just talk to themselves. They mumble something under their noses and exhibit this "I don't care" attitude, other people also pretend that they don't notice it. For me, this kind of behavior is a sign of neurotics, not an easy going public mindset or whatever they may interpret it as.
In my country, people who talk to themselves in public places are also accepted with tolerance and general ignoring, but it is not by any means considered normal, as it seems to be here. And such individuals are fairly rare to see, while here literary every other person does it. A neurotic nation! I mean, these people don't have bluetooth head set or anything in their ears, so that they may be speaking on the phone, lol. All this is really weird.

People here also seem to curse excessively, probably that is why there are labels on some buildings explicitly stating that “Soliciting is not allowed”, as well as spitting, littering and drug selling, LOL. Yet people generally seem to spit and litter wherever they like, I don’t know about drug selling. Yesterday I came to the conclusion that New York has this strange oriental tint, it is dirty and lower culture prevails. Oh, yeah, having mentioned peculiar labels on buildings and streets, this is another uniquely American weirdness. There are all kinds of labels and signs with the most bizarre instructions, as if written for idiots. Of course not all labels are awkward, don’t get me wrong, some are quite helpful even, but only half of them, the rest seem needless, for example “This school is a drug free zone” .. right?! So, dealers, stay away, because you see what the label says! I mean, come on, this label is ridiculous, don’t you think? As if, the school only is a drug free zone and, say, the street around the corner isn’t, lol, because there is no label there, lol.

The American society seems very segregated still, despite all the patriotic propaganda. Everybody calls themselves American, but the different ethnicities live in groups and generally don't mix with others and sometimes are even hostile to one another.

Afro-American people still suffer from the complexes they had centuries in a row in the past and kind of look at me with certain dislike. Maybe it’s because I’m white, maybe it’s because of the way I dress, maybe it’s because of my body posture, which is straight and confident. Some of them wouldn’t even look at me on the street, as if they are stating something with this almost hostile ignoring. Maybe I dress inappropriately, but that again, I like the sporty elegant style and well, these are the only clothes I have, so? People seem touchy in regard to dressing style and in the part of Staten Island I live, there are a lot of black people behaving in a ghetto-like manner, all dressed up rapper style.

Now, I want to mention that I am not a racist by any means or sense, but just an advocate of culture, of civilized culture, that’s all. I see many well dressed and obviously well behaved people “of color” in Manhattan, but the truth is that most of the latino and afro-americans have a pretty low culture, that they happily exhibit. Of course, there are plenty of “white” people who dress like rappers and the like, who enjoy the ghetto culture as well. I will definitely go on a tour in the other more notorious “burrows” of New York in the months to come, but probably I will observe them from the window of a bus. Why, oh why must low culture prevail in this world?! And why young people in particular enjoy it? Is this the legacy of the hippies? Or is it just the result of the low levels of self-awareness and intelligence, since the prevailing mental content of a social group reflects on their way of life and exterior habitat. This topic can be expanded quite a lot, so I will not diverge on it here.

Speaking of mentality, let me share one unpleasant and almost scary experience I had with the locals a week ago. So, I wanted to find a pharmacy to buy some things from there. I looked up in Google and it found me one 24-hour pharmacy, since my days off weren’t around the corner. I will share my impressions from the American pharmacies and social utilities in the next post. This pharmacy was about 20 minutes bus drive from where I live. On the way back I took the wrong bus. Got off near a bridge and went on another stop, intending to take a bus to the ferry station and from there to take one of the two buses that lead home. The bus came after half an hour and the sun was setting down. I got on the bus and on the way I saw a park that was familiar and I knew there are stops of the buses I needed, so I decided to get off there instead of riding to the ferry station. It was already dark and about 9:15 in the evening. So I went into a small grocery to buy an energy drink to keep me confidence and lit up a cigarette. Just outside the grocery I asked a big, tattooed white guy about the bus stop and he gave me directions adding in the end “Be careful”. This advice got me a bit strained. Be careful about what? I mean, it’s not late at night, but there were very few people out on the streets. I went on the bus stop and looked at the schedule. The next bus was due after 40 minutes. Wow. I guess the transport is regular only during the day time. So I began to wait. There was this black guy across the street yelling about something. Then, after ten minutes or so a white guy, under 30 came by me and his first line was “I am a good guy”. He repeated that a few times. I stared at him unsure how to react. Then he asked me for a cigarette and repeated again that he was a good guy. I gave him a cigarette bewildered of his weird behavior. He went away.
I continued waiting on the bus stop. I began to feel that people from the cars that passed by me on the street stared at me and my feeling was correct. A white jeep car slowly approached me and stop just next to me. I completely ignored it and didn’t even looked towards the driver. The car stayed there a few minutes and then made a slow U turn and parked across the street. A loud rap music started from inside the car with explicit lyrics talking about sex. I guess the driver was trying to convey me a message. I continued not to turn my head towards the car, but I could feel that the driver was looking at me. I think he was black. He continued persistently to try to attract my attention with the loud music and when finally he got my message he drove away. Then another black car passed by me very slowly in an intimidating manner. I pretended I don’t notice it as well. This one didn’t stopped. Just as I was beginning to feel like I am going to get shot or kidnapped any minute now the bus showed up. What a relief. I complained to the driver for taking him so long. He looked at me and nodded, as if saying “Well done. Tough girl”. I looked at him with my eyebrow raised and sat. On the back of the bus there was a noisy company of very young black boys shouting something about “Fuck” and “Bitches”. So, I made it home intact, but this was a really freaking experience in a country and a state that claims to have a low crime rate. Really?! With this behavior of people at early evening I can’t imagine how they would behave if it was 3 o’clock at night. And they claim a low crime rate? Hard to believe. These claims may as well be just another piece of American propaganda. Dart Vader would say “The propaganda is strong in this one”. Sure is.