"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 9, Culture Clash in a Grocery Store

The Africa Journals

Chapter 9
Culture clash in a grocery store

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. – Henry Miller

Anxious to exchange large rands to small rands, I headed into the grocery store again and picked up a Magnum pomegranate ice cream bar, a new taste experience for me.   Then I joined the queue for the cashiers.  With a couple people ahead of me, I had time to look around and…uh, oh.

I’d been in here less than a half hour before and bought a bottle of Coke Zero for the long coach journey we were to make later this morning.   As in US banks, customers formed one line, then went to the cashier that looked almost done with her current customer.   When I did that, the cashier shot me an annoyed look.  She also refused to exchange my rands for smaller rands, just gave me change for my purchase.

What I had failed to notice, because there was no one ahead of me to show the way, was that each cashier (they are seated in chairs and are called tellers) would push a button to indicate that she was ready for the next customer, then a sign lit up indicating which teller was ready.  My barging in to her space was discourteous and I had deserved that look.

This time I waited.  I also acquired a few more small bills in change.  I could game this system.

I considered returning to the earlier teller and tendering my ignorance as an apology but she was busy with a customer and I didn’t want to barge in again.

Back in the hotel lobby, I told Brian of my misadventure in the stairwell, the broken glass, and the door that wouldn’t open.  A look I have yet to interpret (but would see often) flashed across his face, quickly replaced by concern.   

"This is a safety issue,” he said.  “I’ll have to tell management.” He was thinking about fire and guests trapped in that stairwell, just as I had.

I also had a little problem at the bank, I explained.   Same look, but closer to, “Oh, boy, there’s one in every group…”

I retreated to a neutral corner.  What’s the matter with me?  I’m an experienced international traveler, yet I’m acting like a doofus.   Forgetting to check for my yellow fever card, forgetting my Vantage name tag and cobbling together a poor substitute, getting myself trapped in a stairwell, the problems at the bank and grocery store.   Is this what it meant to “act your age?”   If so, I didn’t like it.

Fortunately, I am one who believes “Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves, for we shall never cease to be amused.”  Well, the grocery store thing had me chagrined, but I was laughing at the rest of my misadventures.  

I reached into a small pocket of my super deluxe travel vest with all its secret pockets.  As my hand closed around its contents, a smile reached my face.   Not all doofus, I thought, as I withdrew the “forgotten” Vantage name tag with its appropriate blue lanyard.

And then we boarded the coach for a trip into Africa.


  1. SHADDY?! .. What gives here friend? Life has its challenges? Well Patti and I hope you are doing well and we DO miss you! Gullible could I possibly sneak in a small comment here as to your own comment(s) about you .. a vastly-widely-traveled international traveler (I tell people who call me a world traveler about folks like YOU who are REALLY a world traveler) .. feeling like a Dofus. Here it comes. It has been MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE that at age 77 I am NOT what I used to be at age 70 or even at age 65 and you get-my-point here. I can REALLY FEEL some mental changes. Thankfully for me I keep returning to India where I have been traveling for over 20 years so I do have some institutional knowledge in my aging memory banks in my brain. You said it .. we just have to chuckle at ourselves and get-on-with-the-getting-on. I fully intend to keep on traveling myself. In this vein I plan a post of my own sharing some of my recent "Captain? Are You Taking Stupid Pills?" .. Joy from Cap and from Patti and from Shaddy tagging along here with us! We have your back friend.

  2. You're handling all your difficulties beautifully, Gully. You sound somewhat like me in that you have everything you need but just can't always locate it when you want it. All those vest pockets have you so organized that you're disorganized. Right?

    Cap and Patti: Thanks for asking and I'm doing just fine. My challenges are all positive for the most part; I just don't always get here as quickly as I'd like. Ya know how that goes??

    Traveling by reading Gully's blog reminds me of shopping with my mother. She'd be marching down the sidewalk and I'd be running as fast as I could to keep up. My travels are very limited although my husband and I will be taking an Alaskan cruise in June of this year. The only time I was out of the country was at a Sandals resort in Jamaica. It's fun to hear of other people's travels.

    1. Every misadventure is fodder for a story. I look forward to them. Life's a kick!