Who is the Foreigner Where?
One busy weekday morning I neatly pulled my borrowed car in to the gas station and parallel to the pump. Pleased with myself for remembering on which side of the car the gas cap was located, I positioned that side closest to the hose and got out of the car. Unlocking the gas cap and unhooking the hose, I silently congratulated myself on the smooth execution of this operation. I did not wish to draw attention to myself. Would anyone suspect that it had been a long time since I had performed this task? What could go wrong?
Something could and did. It did not take long for me to realize that there was a problem. It was too quiet. There was no sound of gasoline coming through the hose and into my car. Was the pump out of order? I wondered. No, surely there would have been an OUT OF ORDER sign. Was I not pressing hard enough on the control?
A loud, almost undistinguishable voice cut in on my ponderings: “Would the customer at pump number 12 please press the Payment Option button located to her left?”
Oh no! I thought. That’s me. What’s that they’re saying? That I have an option as to whether I pay or not?
You may have already realized what it took my brain longer to figure out, but the option was not if I would pay but how I would pay. Press one button on the pump to pay by credit card, thereby making it unnecessary to enter the station building at all, or press another to pay by cash at the kiosk.
When did they introduce this? I wondered.
The answer came quickly: When you were away.
I consider myself an intelligent, mature adult, and yet it is at embarrassing times like these that I feel like a child again.
This feeling is familiar. Fifteen years ago, when my husband and I, with a baby daughter, first left ‘home’ to work overseas, I stepped into a strange new world. The food was different; the climate, the customs, and the people all were different. Things were just not what I was used to, but this was as we expected and we began to learn how to survive step by step like children. What I was not expecting, however, was that I would feel the same on returning home to the land we left behind all those years ago. Surely I knew how to live in the land of my birth?