Saturday, January 05, 2019

the eye of london is upon you

Life has its little serendipities.

Some mock us. Others amuse. Yesterday was an amusement day.

According to Sarah A. Lanier's Foreign to Familiar: Understanding Hot and Cold Climate Cultures, cultures can be reduced to a rather simple, if not simplistic, analysis. Hot climates are relation-based. Cold climates are task-based.

It all strikes me a bit like those pop psychologists who claim to fully understand the workings of a person's mind without ever personally treating them. You know the type. Hitler was not evil; he was just working out some Freudian mother issues. According to Lanier's argument, a woman raised in Alabama is culturally akin to a man raised in Barra de Navidad.

I do not know how scientific those claims are. But there appears to be at least a soupçon of truth embedded within it. At least, based on my personal experience.

Yesterday I found a treasure in my mail box. It was a post card from my English pal and former blogger, Gary Denness. He had not signed his name, but when I saw the London Eye on the front, I knew exactly who had sent it.  For two reasons.

The first is that Gary is the only person who has sent me a post card since I moved to Mexico. I cannot remember the last time anyone has even sent me another post card. The medium seems to be something from an era of liveried footmen.

The last card from Gary was a portrait of a hip Elizabeth II (in a pickle with the queen). It still has a prominent place on my bedroom desk.

The second reason I knew it was from Gary was because he told me it was on its way. At the time, we had a quintessential cold-climate conversation. He was curious how long the combined forces of the Royal Mail and Correros de Mexico would take to get the London Eye from his fingertips into my hand.

The answer is: I don't know. I cannot recall the date he mailed the card. The Royal Mail answers that question for me, though. The very bureaucratic postmark is "22-10-18."

But I do not know when it arrived in San Patricio. Our postmaster usually marks all mail received with a large date stamp that obscures almost everything on the front of an envelope. Maybe he did not want to obliterate Gary's message or poke out the Eye. For whatever reason, there is no date of receipt on the card.

I could usually estimate the date based on the day I checked my box. But, because of my travels and the holidays, I had not been to the post office for about six weeks. My best estimate is that it arrived somewhere between 16 November and 4 January.

And there is a great example of cold-climate vs. hot-climate thinking.

Gary and I are the poster boys for cold-climate cultures. We both originate from places where a nice day is drizzly and overcast. And there is no doubt that we are task-oriented. Look at all of those numbers.

We cold folk seem to take a certain comfort in reducing life to a set of numbers. Dinner party conversations is peppered with commentaries on everyone's "numbers" -- those test results we hope that will make us immortal, or, at least, keep us amongst the living.

When I told Omar, a hot-climate boy, about the post card test, he looked at me as if I had dropped second gear. "Why?," he asked; the whole experiment made no sense to him. "Isn't it just OK for you to hear from a friend?"

He, of course, was correct. The primary purpose of any post card is to communicate something important to another person. Even if that "something important" is just to let the other person know we care about them.

In this particular case, Gary told me about the view of the Eye (and far more) from Galvin at Windows, a London restaurant with a Michelin star (which is far better for revenue than receiving one from Texaco). He also added a particularly witty political observation. One of the specialties of the English.

Omar had a point. All of our cold-climate numbers get in the way of what should be our purpose in life -- celebrating the relationships we have developed over our decades-long trek toward the grave.

To a degree, culture is destiny. I doubt I will ever be able to pull away from the gravitational pull of checking the temperature, measuring my medical numbers, or obsessing about being on time to avoid inconveniencing others.

A couple of years ago, I was at a party here in Barra. Because it was a Canadian party, everyone had arrived on time or 15 minutes early. With one exception. An American man and his Mexican wife showed up about 45 minutes after everyone else arrived.

The American announced, in an irritated voice for everyone to hear: "You will have to excuse my wife for making us late. She does not understand that the time we are supposed to be somewhere is not the time she should start getting ready."

Maria looked at him indulgently, and very softly replied: "And John does not realize that a party does not last for the single second of being on time. A party is to enjoy the company of friends."

Mexico may be changing me. The fact that I could not remember the date that started Gary's experiment and that I no longer go to the Post Office daily may indicate I am starting to turn loose of some of my task-oriented culture.

And I am not certain if that is goo. I do have one task to which I must attend -- prepare my notes for my presentation on Thursday. Enhancing my relationship with my readers is very hot-climate. I need to cool down just a bit and get back to what must be done.

But I did not want you to miss one more joy of living in Mexico.

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