When I first decided to invite other bloggers to guest post here on Hey Look a Chicken, I began with my friends and cohorts from The Fellowship of the Traveling Smartypants, which I started because I had this great idea that a few of us would take turns guest posting on each other’s blogs, but that got complicated with scheduling and I’m pretty sure math was involved. How did I make the jump from rotating guest posts to a blog about nothing? I don’t know. But that’s not important right now…
To date, many of my friends have written guest posts for me already. Some more than one. But Steph, going to great lengths to prove that I am NOT the boss of her, has waited until now to send me a guest post. Was it worth waiting for? I think so, yes. But how could you go wrong with someone who writes a blog post entitled Beware the Ass Clown? I’m sure you see my point. Here’s her Oh-so-fancy and official Bio:
Writer, wife, traveler, mom, blogger, humorist, editor, Spanish-speaker, social media admin for John C Maxwell (@johncmaxwell).
And now, after the longest intro in the history of HLAC, here’s Steph:
“You bad lady! Let us do living!”
His voice carried from the front door of the bus as I made my way back to my seat. I don’t know why he was complaining. It’s not like I did what I wanted to: yank that whistle out of his mouth and ram it up his nose.
All I did was shoulder my way between him and his mark.
You know, I really like foreign travel. And I don’t think I’m an Ugly American. I don’t whine at the lack of cheeseburgers in kosher restaurants. I resist the impulse to wander in large groups down the middle of crowded sidewalks. I LIKE foreign languages and I KNOW how hard it is to learn one, so I never make fun of nationals’ attempts to speak English to me.
See? I’m mostly a delight. But I really can’t help it if I react badly to two groups of people encountered by tourists in some countries: street vendors and lechers.
Maybe it was my first visit to Mexico City. Or more specifically, my first ride on the subway there. To get even more specific, it was my first …um… contact with the local populace.
Without going into graphic detail, I’ll just say that Mexico City is the first city I’d ever heard of to have (and need) women-only subway cars during rush hour. After that first ride, I developed the following strategies for travel as a woman on (unisex) subway trains:
- Stand in a group, whenever possible. With all the females in the center, surrounded by the guys. Kind of like how water buffalo protect their young from hyenas.
- Failing #1, always find a wall. And stand against it. Facing the rest of the train. With arms crossed and a vicious look in your eye.
- When entering or exiting trains (or really walking through any crowded area), pay attention to your immediate surroundings. And carry a backpack, slung low. Swinging it violently and unpredictably.
- If contact is made, don’t even try to guess where it came from. Your stinkeye will be answered by leering – but blank – stares from each of the 15 men pressed up against you by the crowd.
By the end of six weeks there, I had the stinkeye and wall strategy down. And on my final train ride, I knew I’d perfected the backpack swing when the guy I “accidentally” hit actually said “OOF!” and stumbled backward.
My strategy for dealing with street vendors came out of a less violating experience. Unless you count being “taken” for a sarape as a violation.
(I didn’t actually ever buy a sarape. I just like saying it. SARAPE.)
Charging tourists double seems to be the locals’ entertainment in those souvenir markets. And it annoys me. What annoys me more is when they take advantage of Westerners’ general openness. Make eye contact and they descend like vultures.
So on that day in Israel when Whistle Man shoved a pennywhistle (that he was selling for MUCH MORE than a penny) under the nose of the nice older lady in our group, and she looked him in they eye, smiled sweetly, and said, “No, thank you,” I knew it was…
My Time to Shine.
With a mighty leap, I caught up. She was shuffling a little faster toward the bus, still smiling apologetically.
“Tweedle-eedle-eedle!” he blew the whistle in her ear. “Only ten shekels! You want for your kids?! They like! See? I have beads too! Three string for twenty shekels! Is good deal!”
It was after I elbowed him in the ribs, got between them, and said NO in his face with my best vicious expression that he called me a Bad Lady. But he let my sweet friend scramble onto the bus.
Personally, I think Mr. Whistle should be grateful that I wasn’t carrying a backpack.