Re: The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations ... Makes People Happy

1

"Are you just a passerby??"

"More of a witness. For the Lord."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:45 PM
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"No, no mere passerby am I! I am... DoorMan!"

I see an outfit with a cape and the whole underwear over the tights bit, but a whole lot of brass buttons down the front.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:47 PM
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I knew the superhero underwear would come in handy.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:51 PM
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yesterday evening when i walked to my apartment i met a mexican? woman with two small children, may be 3-4 yrs olds, may be she was moving, she was pushing two carts before and after her and talking to her children in spanish, instructing something
i said hello and wanted to help her and did not dare to ask her, i felt as if i'd intrude her peaceful procession, as if she looked like she'd better to avoid help
still i'm very displeased with myself, you did good


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:58 PM
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a mexican? woman

You saw Apo? In drag?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:00 PM
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DoorMan is great.

I am off to Germany on Monday. All the German I know, I learned from w-lfs-n on this blog. So I figure I am golden.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:00 PM
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With great power comes great responsibility, read.

as if she looked like she'd better to avoid help

"better to" should be "rather"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:00 PM
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thanks


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:04 PM
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"thanks" should be "Thank you, Mr. Ogged."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:06 PM
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"Thank you, Mr.Ogged".


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:08 PM
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I think you put that in quotation marks to make fun of me.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:09 PM
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I am off to Germany on Monday. All the German I know, I learned from w-lfs-n on this blog. So I figure I am golden.

I've only been to Cologne (fantabulous catherdral) and every time I tried to speak German with someone, it turned out to be an immigrant who was in no mood to indulge me.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:10 PM
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i put the dot outside the quotation mark to make fun of you
otherwise it's a heartfelt thank you


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:12 PM
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Amidst profusely thanking me, one of them asked, with heartfelt wonderment, "Are you just a passerby??"

People react weirdly if you hold the door for them.

Apparently, while I slept, it became America the Rude.

max
['People are weird.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:14 PM
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every time I tried to speak German with someone, it turned out to be an immigrant who was in no mood to indulge me.,

Try talking to someone who isn't a hooker.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:14 PM
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People react weirdly if you hold the door for them.

Try looking them in the eye and smiling sincerely. Then watch them freak out.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:39 PM
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I am off to Germany on Monday. All the German I know, I learned from w-lfs-n on this blog. So I figure I am golden.

It is polite to call all young women Fräulein. They love it when you show your understanding of old world manners that way.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:10 PM
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Oops. 17 was me.

Clearly you wouldn't want to take German advice from Sifu Babelfish Tweety.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:11 PM
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Never mind Blume; of course 17 was me. She's just loops on cherimoya sherbert.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:14 PM
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It is polite to call all young women Fräulein.

Right. There's a regular bit on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue along these lines -- Helpful Tips for Visitors. "If you feel the need to spit while attending a church service, a plate for this purpose is passed around in the middle of the service." "Be sure to ask your Taxi driver for his opinion on the current political situation."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:18 PM
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what complicated rules
i never gonna remember those
i like when people around here call me miss, when they call me ma'am or sometimes even mama i feel like i'm old with grey hair


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:19 PM
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I knew the superhero underwear would come in handy.

Ogged put the underwear on the water, and then recited the magic phrase, causing the water and the underwear to be transported to ... how the hell did that underwear work, anyway?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:25 PM
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"Are you just a passerby??"

"I'm from the Midwest." A perfectly complete answer.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:33 PM
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When I visited Germany, people at the places I stayed would look at my last name and then say "but [last name] is a German name." I don't know if they were implying that I didn't look German, so it was a surprise to see I have that name, but I always made sure to tell them it's Swiss.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:44 PM
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Fondue update:
The long, boring, aggravatingly rehearsed and condescending story. It spewed, overflowed and dripped off our
table and onto the floor and underneath the shoes of the other patrons and into the street.

Made with really cool cheese!


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:18 AM
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"I knew the superhero underwear would come in handy."

check out the cool stripes.


Posted by: bryan | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:45 AM
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the only good samaritan is a dead samaritan.


Posted by: bryan | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:47 AM
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There's a regular bit on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue along these lines

There was. They've pulled the show now Humph has died. Quite rightly.


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:22 AM
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Did you tell the water carriers they were really earning their money today?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:09 AM
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Maybe you all live in Rudeville, but in New York people get doors, help overburdened mothers with strollers or college kids with suitcases, and help out old people---all the time. Profuse thanking is considered a little gauche, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:15 AM
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The New York phenomenon is weird though. They grab doors, help with strollers, go out of their way in lots of ways, but all with this sour puss that says, "If you were more self-reliant, I wouldn't have to do this." I think it's just about keeping you from saying "Thank you" in some embarrassingly extravagant way. They secretly get a kick out of it.

The difference is, a Midwesterner will do so little as hold a door open for you for a second with a shit-eating grin that says, "Jesus told me to do this miraculous deed for you!"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:43 AM
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No, no. The sourpuss is to make it clear "I'm just helping you, you don't owe me anything." "Anything" being attention, or continuing acquaintance, or whatever. A snarling New Yorker carrying your stroller over the turnstile is differentiating herself from someone who will talk your ear off for the next twenty minutes on the subway, or himself from someone who's going to want your phone number.

In a place this crowded, you need to keep your personal barriers up. Someone lifting your luggage down the steps without cracking a smile is respecting those barriers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:49 AM
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32 seems right to me. New Yorkers: surly but helpful!


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:56 AM
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Maybe you all live in Rudeville, but in New York people get doors, help overburdened mothers with strollers or college kids with suitcases, and help out old people---all the time. Profuse thanking is considered a little gauche, though.

That was my experience, too. I wouldn't have said "gauche," though.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:59 AM
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There's an old cartoon my former office mate put on our door: two nearly identical panels showing a street scenes with two people passing each other. In one, a person says "Fuck you!" but his thought bubble says "Have a nice day." In the other, the speech bubble says "Have a nice day!" and the thought bubble says "Fuck you." The first panel is labeled "New York" and the second, "Los Angeles".


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:11 AM
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Yeah, whenever I encounter people who use simple favors to get some kind of attention in return, I get a little snarly now. Upon leaving NYC, the thing that bothers me most is solicitous, chatty waitstaff. I keep thinking, "What do these people want from me?" All I know how to do in that situation is to look up, smile, and say "Thank you!" every time they do anything or say anything.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:18 AM
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people at the places I stayed would look at my last name and then say "but [last name] is a German name."

Heh, I get this pretty often with my first name. Which, sure, is a somewhat common first name for females in Germany, but it's not like it doesn't exist anywhere else.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:18 AM
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The name "Gunnhilda" is actually quite rare in the U.S.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:25 AM
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I heard a different comparison of the small town Midwest (Wobegon) to a west-coast city (Portland). In Portland it's easy to meet people be hard to make good friends. In Wobegon people are standoffish but once you know someone, you can't get rid of them.

The unfriendliness of New Yorkers is especially in the most anonymous public places, such as subways and sidewalks at rush hour. In fact, during my NYC in Xmas I ended up trying to navigate Manhattan at rush hour and did feel completely invisible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:31 AM
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did feel completely invisible.

But see, that's the beauty of the rush hour subway! Your invisibility is a gift of portable semi-privacy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:37 AM
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The unfriendliness of New Yorkers is especially in the most anonymous public places, such as subways and sidewalks at rush hour

Not unfriendliness. It's what AWB said in 40.

New Yorkers love nothing more than giving directions to tourists. You just have to ask (or not even ask, just hold a map and look lost). People will swarm you offering assistance.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:38 AM
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But see, that's the beauty of the rush hour subway! Your invisibility is a gift of portable semi-privacy.

"This reserve with its overtone of hidden aversion appears in turn as the form or the cloak of a more general mental phenomenon of the metropolis: it grants to the individual a kind and an amount of personal freedom which has no analogy whatsoever under other conditions."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:39 AM
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43

"Midwestern" is a useless designation.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:47 AM
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At rush hour in Manhattan people do not seem to be delighting in giving directions to tourists.

"Midwestern" is Minnesota, Wisconsin, and parts of Iowa. Southern Iow is part of the South. The Dakotas are in the West. Illinois through Pennsylvania and Wester NY is The Rust Belt, though Southern Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio are in the South.

But many people misuse the term.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:55 AM
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I think it's worth distinguishing the cultural Midwest from the Great Plains, which has its own problems. But since no one else splits it up this way, one is reduced to using "Midwest."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:01 AM
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45: `flyover' covers all your bases.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:12 AM
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Geez you people. Surely there are other towns where people can help one another without being sanctimonious about it or prickly-with-a-nougat-center-of-helpfulness. Do we have any commenters from Providence or something?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:14 AM
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44: Hrm. My apologies for my compatriots, but that is atypical. Honestly, the usual thing to happen is you ask one person for help, and three more join in competing to give you the best possible directions. Of course, until you ask for help or pull out a map, they will all trample past you as if you were an inanimate object -- it's what makes New Yorkers so peculiarly lovable, in our own unpleasant way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:18 AM
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I have found New Yorkers to be helpful, but the hating on the midwest on this blog is kind of hilarious. I think your black and bitter hearts just can't understand sunny dispositions.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:22 AM
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42: Simmel? I [heart] Simmel.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:25 AM
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stras is from Providence, but I'm not sure that would help. I tend to think Pittsburgh people are the perfect amount of friendliness, but then I would.

Last night we saw Smart People, which was an okay but not great film, but it was filmed in Pittsburgh (and set there), and by the end of it I was really homesick. Which is kind of dumb, since I don't really feel all that attached to the city, and what was making me homesick was mostly the perpetual overcast skies and how the resulting light made the trees look.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:27 AM
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Southern Iow is part of the South.

You're on crack. Only once you get to the souther third of Missouri do you get to the South.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:29 AM
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It's not that, so much as Holden Caulfield-esque getting freaked out by 'phonies'. People are pretty much the same, fundamental niceness levels-wise, everywhere. But given that my baseline expectation for interaction with a stranger is a deadeyed stare, when some cornfed denizen of the praries gives me a big smile with eye contact, I expect him to be about to give me his firstborn child or something. When he turns out to be no more helpful than the blankfaced NYer, I feel snubbed.

It's not right or wrong, just clashing signals.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:30 AM
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47: hey don't bring New England into it. We'll be unhelpful and surly, thank you. Or rather, no thanks to you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:30 AM
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Redfining the midwest is one of Emerson's long-standing trolls, like arguing that Billy Joel is actually an accountant.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:31 AM
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People are pretty much the same, fundamental niceness levels-wise, everywhere

New Yorkers have to believe this. This is why god invented upstate NY, as a barrier between them and Canada.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:33 AM
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54: That sucks. No wonder my buddy wants to move back (he also hates the weekends he has to spend in NYC, mostly due to expense and an indie scene full of pricks).

I'm pretty much with 56. People tend to be pretty nice everywhere (unless there's a language barrier, most people don't want any part of that), but it would be ludicrous to think that personal interactions with people on the streets of London or NYC are just as pleasant as those with Chicagoans or Sydneysiders.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:38 AM
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if one asks for help it's simple, anyone will help
if one does not ask, but looks like s/he doesn't mind help it's also simple, just help and no thanks needed
but if one clearly needs help but looks like s/he rather avoid help, than what, that's the problem
to decide how one looks, i for example always think i do not need help myself and all like leave me alone until one actually helps me and it than surprisingly feels like good, the receiving
the line between that feeling before being disturbed
and gratitude is not very clear for me as the receiver or as the observer and what feeling seems prevailed at the moment decides my helping impulse i suppose
anyway i should have helped the woman with carts and kids, even insisted on my help even if we could not understand each other's language, rather than just go away


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:42 AM
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The indie scene in NYC has indeed gotten intolerable. What used to be a sort of fashionably shy emo attitude five years ago has grown into an aesthetic of open judgmentalism and surly displeasure.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:43 AM
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recent conversation between me and a middle-aged man who was a total stranger, on the F train:

man, after announcing to me that i would be more comfortable if i arranged my bag in some other way than the way i had it on my lap: are you a student?

me: you like to ask questions, don't you?

man: i'm bored.

me: well i'm not.

new yorker or not???
(he was wearing a fleece and looked very middle-class & not crazy; i was in a state of extreme exhaustion so probably looking young and vulnerable).

three cheers for the normal big city anonymity and privacy and freedom.


Posted by: mmf! | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:44 AM
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60: My sister met her future (now ex) husband on the subway. That was merely warning sign #156 of 248. Post-wedding events unfolded predictably.


Posted by: Edith Bolling Galt Wilson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:50 AM
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hey don't bring New England into it. We'll be unhelpful and surly, thank you. Or rather, no thanks to you.

Vermonters can be helpful, but only if you really need it (and if you're not self-reliant enough to know where to draw the line, you're a flatlander, and you should leave). Plus, they're more reticent than surly. So the farmer down the way will tow you out of a snowbank at 2 in the morning without saying a word, but otherwise a finger slightly raised from the steering wheel when you pass on the road is the only sign that he knows you exist.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:50 AM
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me: you like to ask questions, don't you?
man: i'm bored.

Chilling words. I spend a lot of time on the F, and it seems to be the chattiest train, perhaps second only to the G.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:53 AM
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52: Blume (may I call you Gunnhilda?), you are much more tolerant of Southernness than I am.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:55 AM
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61: There was an article in the SF Chron recently about couples that met and fell in love while waiting for the Muni. I guess cause the Muni takes like forever to arrive* there is plenty of time to get to know your bus stop compatriots.

*At least, this used to be true; I don't know if it is any longer.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:55 AM
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65: There's a song about that.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:57 AM
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60: Either not a New Yorker or being totally and consciously out of line.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:59 AM
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As an accountant, Billy Joel should have been alert to the possibility of fraud. But no, he was cheated by his own accountant. Irony.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Joel was raised in Hicksville, New York.

Who would have guessed?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:59 AM
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Meeting someone on the subway should be impossible. Even in my loneliest single days, subways were off-limits.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:06 AM
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i was hoping someone'd correct
'then' or any misplaced straw comma and i'd say thank you, mr.
last last yr at the bus stop near our campus i used to meet a tall and totally grey-haired white lady around her 40 ies, the hair looked almost silver, very beautiful but her face was very young looking
i thought she is Russian coz on her shoulder bag there was written in Russian some cardiological meeting in Moscow i never talked to her except hi, but one day we talked and she told me that she is a cardiosurgeon, she is from NYC and we talked about cardiac transplants and it was very pleasant chat and i said that i'm getting my driver's license shortly
she disappeared from the next day and i thought, wow, i helped someone to fight their driving fear-phobia may be
well, enough language exercises for today


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:07 AM
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52: Southern Iow is part of the South.
You're on crack. Only once you get to the souther third of Missouri do you get to the South.

It's easy, just follow the linguistic markers of the south which include the droppin of termina vowels and consonants.

In my experience there is a certain "southernness" that creeps up the Mississppi river towns, so Hannibal, Keokuk and Burlington feel more southern than the surrounding farming areas. By Davenport it is more standard Midwest. While Dubuque is different again for being in the hills associated with the "Driftless Area".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:09 AM
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Read, seriously? If you'd like more grammar corrections, start with standard capitalization. I love correcting people, I'm pretty much as bad as w-lfs-n that way, but the way you write without capitals at the beginning of sentences and so forth makes it look as if everything unusual is an intentional choice rather than a mistake, and so I just don't see mistakes.

(And 'may be' should be one word -- 'maybe', not two. Also, I think your English is improving: I've noticed a change since you've started commenting.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:13 AM
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51: I tend to think Pittsburgh people are the perfect amount of friendliness

Except on the roads where they are often too freaking polite. If it's your right-of-way/ turn to go just Go!, it works better that way, trust me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:14 AM
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They're afraid you're going to make one of those left turns at the beginning of the traffic cycle.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:17 AM
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74: Yes, that did occur to me since not honoring it is what caught out Ben Roehtlisberger in his motorcycle accident, you can view it as either aggression or deference depending on the point of view. I understand the roots of it, a lot of "impossible" intersections/on-ramps where you need someone's help.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:24 AM
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50: Simmel, indeed.

So Cala, I have to take a train from Hannover airport to the city center. Of the available systems I must avail of S5. Whew.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:31 AM
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It was a habit I consciously had to break.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:35 AM
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76: Badum-ching!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:36 AM
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At least with S5 you can get back out to the airport for the return flight.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:10 AM
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People Men in Texas react weirdly freak out if you hold the door for them.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:44 PM
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The value of "you" being "a you of the female persuasion," naturally.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:45 PM
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Honestly, the usual thing to happen is you ask one person for help, and three more join in competing to give you the best possible directions.

I have always maintained that NYC is an extremely friendly and helpful place. When I was there once in an ice storm, I asked a UPS driver for directions, and he walked me 6 or 7 blocks, pulling his handcart over the icy sidewalks, to make sure I was on the right track. And he didn't even hit on me.

Y'all are being complete assholes about the Midwest, though.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:54 PM
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Californian: I have to go to Indiana next week. I've never spent much time in the Midwest.

Iowan: People from Ohio think that they're the real Midwest and Iowa's really part of the West, and people in Iowa think they're the Midwest and Ohio's on the eastern seaboard, but people from both states agree: Indiana is a shithole.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:40 PM
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Simmel? I [heart] Simmel.

I get off on Simmel.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:01 PM
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man, after announcing to me that i would be more comfortable if i arranged my bag in some other way than the way i had it on my lap:

This reminds me of an an incident with a bag a friend witnessed - or claimed to witness - on the D (from the Bronx side, not Brooklyn).

Morning commute. A man is sitting down next to a bag (which takes up its own seat). The rest of the seats in the car fill up. Passengers, one at a time at each stop, ask the man if the seat with the bag is taken. Each time the man says he's saving it for a friend. He does not move the bag.

A middle-aged man in business attire gets on, asks about the seat, gets told it's being saved, tells the man that he could at least move the bag until the friend shows up. The man actually moves the bag. Businessman sits down. The friend does not appear.

Businessman arrives at his stop. When he stands up he turns to the man with the bag, says something snide about how the friend can have the seat now, tells the guy to shove his bag up his ass, and walks out.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:23 PM
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