When people speak of lifelong dreams, they might talk of owning a house, or leaving the atmosphere, but really it’s just anything you’ve wanted to do for most of your life. And while I still have a few loftier goals left to accomplish, I am happy to be able to cross anything off the list. And that is something I did this month.
I finally have a giant fern in my shower.
The bar I work at makes their own pizza. It comes in several sizes that are priced by the length of their diameter. 10”, 15”. 20”. etc.
When having conversations with customers for the first time about our wares, it is common and completely acceptable for them to say something along the lines of “Do you have a large? How big is that?” However, I am constantly put into the position where the customer will ask “I am thinking about the 15”. How big is that?”
The correct response to this question is “Fifteen inches.” Even if you’re not making fun of them. That is the answer.
Any job in which you interact with the public will result in answering the same questions thousands of times. Retail is excellent practice for living with an Alzheimer’s sufferer. My goal becomes to find ways to streamline these exchanges, freeing up more time to focus on other tasks. Unfortunately, I have hit a wall with this pizza conversation. It appears to me that my work has chosen terms of measurement that, I was under the impression, everyone in this country had been taught. I have taken to holding my hands awkwardly out in approximation of the stated length, but this almost never satisfies their minds. They glance at my hands, and frown in continued confusion.
And so day after day I stand around, hands out like I’m telling a fish story, seeing sufficient geometric representations in my mind’s eye. Just because my inability to sufficiently communicate this information is not a problem for the ages does not make my struggle any less real or important. Better luck tomorrow.
The second largest piece of culture shock I’ve encountered in my four months in Louisville is my peers preoccupation with high school.
Specifically their mates and neighbors behavior in that time. On a long enough timeline all conversations with the strangers and friends I’ve met here meanders towards a story about high school, often with a cast of characters I have never heard of, regardless of the storyteller’s age. I suppose our strongest opinions and friendships are frequently forged at that point in life, but I talked to a man in his fifties at length about football games that happened when he went to school down the street from where we were standing. And the upsets and victories were delivered with encyclopedic knowledge of the people who were there and their flaws.
It seems to work for them, but I can’t help feeling relief that nobody is dwelling on the actions of a sixteen year old version of myself. The decisions and antics of that primitive mind are kept whole only in my head, preserved in a brine of embarrassment. Distance from my developmental years eases my ability to learn from them. The idea of overhearing decade old gossip about myself seems exhausting. Running into an old classmate when home for xmas has never been disagreeable for me because I don’t know anyone from my graduating class that would care about or even remember anything I did back then. I have heard Louisville described as a metropolitan hamlet, and this aspect more than anything else illustrates that. And now the generations coming up have social media platforms to better organize their efforts.
The biggest culture shock, however, is that everyone here eats pizza with a fork and knife.