Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Xenophobia

I just had an interesting, comical experience that proves better than any fiction I could concoct at the moment.
I sat in my Intro to Film class next to my friend Josh and set in to listen to the lecture and enjoy the class as I always do. A shorter, darker kid sat next to me. Josh on my left, this kid on my right. The days lecture was on foreign film.
It became appearant very shortly into the class that this individual to my right had no sense of personal space. He repeatedly bumped me. With his knee, foot, elbow, arm, and seemingly anything else that can project from ones person. It was rather uncomfotable. I have what you might call a comfort "bubble", its a personal problem, I know, but the reality remains. I kept thinking, "Doesn't it bother this kid to bump me? For every action there is an equel and opposite reaction, he is feeling a bump as surly as I am every time he makes contact. I'm trying to focus, to take notes, isn't he trying to do the same thing? And doesn't all of this contact bother him as well?"

No, it seemed. No it didn't.

Two days ago, in a church leadership training meeting, I heard a talk about charity that reminded me how very uncharitable I am. Truly, I am grossly lacking in this virtue. I kept reminding myself of this, and that I should try to be charitable, give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe hes from a different country, and is not familiar with the American notion of personal space. He probably is from another country, I thought. He looks it, he sounds like it, and heaven knows he smells like it.

He won't stop moving his leg. Moving ones leg is normal when sitting down, it helps with circulation. But Don't do it when your knee is in full contact with the person next to you. And what is he drawing? It looks like something a third-grader would do.

The teacher continued the lecture with no notice of us.
"One of the greatest obstacles to appreciating foreign film is 'Xenophobia'. Does anybody know what Xenophobia is?"
"Fear of things that are different?"
"Yes, only not just fear, but hatred."


Man, would there be no end to this kid? I had my leg up rested on the knee of the other, clearly on my side of the arm rest, the unspoken dividing line in theater seating. Lines are no barrier for this kid, though, none whatever. He lifted his leg up to do the same thing as me, only mirrored. His knee bumped mine out of the way to take the space I had previously occupied.

"And as a wise man said, a barrier is not where a thing ends, but where something else begins."


Class break. Finally. I get up to get a drink, come back and sit down. "Josh", I says, "this kid next to me will not stop bumping me. If I am leaning your way, I'm sorry, but I'm trying to put some distance between me and the guy to my right."
"No, don't worry about it, I noticed he was kinda' spread out, too."

End break, and class begins again. Only no bumping boy!

"Maybe you got lucky" says Josh. "Your friend doesn't seem to be here."

But no such luck. A little bit into the class, he comes walking back with a bag of chips and a smoothie. We were sitting right in the front of the class, in the very middle. The instructor was standing immediately in front of us, and little bumper had to walk in front of him to get to where we were.

The teacher was mid sentance when bumper boy made his prime assault on my space. The (full) smoothie slipped from bumber boys hands as he tried to pick up his folder, and Pink Aloha Pinapple purree escaped from the broken styrofoam cup, gushing out onto the ground just in front of me. The teacher stopped talking for a moment, and then began again.

My shoes bore the scars of this attack, pink splotches all over them. For those of you who are not aware, I rather enjoy my shoes, I like thier shape, color, and overall departure from the rest of the clothes we wear. Its not a fetish thing, there is nothing strange or unhealthy about it. I just like my shoes. I like them clean. Which they no longer were.

I was wearing my Pumas, the pair that have an outer gray mesh, an interweaving latice of threads. That turns out to be a rather porous surface, and readily absorbed the pink contaminant.

This, you would think, should set me off. This, you would think, would send me into a tyrade. But no, not this time. Maybe there were some mental gymnastics going on behind my consciousness that did it, but somehow all this didn't even bother me. It was funny, really. I couldn't come up with this kind of scenario if I tried. It was comical.

Bumper boy did quickly appologize, not profusely, but an apology none the less. He didn't make any attempts to clean it up, either. There was a pool of pink slush that grew as it melted throughout the remainder of class.
Nor did he stop bumping. Strangely, and seemingly with no provocation, he turned and asked where I was from. "Phoenix Arizona." I replied. "You?"

"I am from the Himalayas. Nepal is my country."

For the rest of class we watched a handful of clips from various foreign films. But I correct myself, the teacher said we shouldn't call them that.

"The term 'Foreign' Film focuses on what is different about this genre, it focuses on what we tend to be afraid of. Rather, we will call them 'International' Films. This helps us focus on what is similar. Its not that we speak different languages thats important, but that we both use language."

2 comments:

Meredith McKinnon said...

Dear Austin Craig,

While tempted to leave an anonymous comment on your web blog(maybe web blog is redundant, blog referring to an online collection of thoughts) I think of many disgruntled remarks I have heard regarding anonymous comments. I hope to hear one less disgruntled remark. Now that I think about it, I don't know if disgruntle can be used in the form of an adjective but I digress, assumming that I have moved in a forward direction to begin with.
When I saw you in the library today, I thought to look at your blog(fast learner) being the blog reader that I am. I realized after I read it, that I am a bumper and also that I probably contributed to your phobia, rather hatred of people disregarding your space when I so invasively hovered behind you today. I obviously and understandably gave you quite a scare. My apologies.
As for your shoes, my condolences.
I also, wanted to say that I don't say hi to many people I know. My roommates just made me aware that I was what they call "a social butterfly" which came to quite a surprise to me but they voted on it, and since we belong to a democratic friendship, I accepted. Point, even those who are disabled by a label such as social butterfly choose not to say hi to friends, associates, or terryiaki sticks workers. So whether it is bad, I don't know, but it is obviously accepted.
Thanks for recording your thoughts electronically so that others(me) can be entertained by your skilled and enjoyable writing.

Katie said...

In between calls at work I have lots of time to stare at a computer screen, and as amusing as it sounds there are only so many people who want to get emails from me. So in attempts to entertain myself I have turned to you Mr. Craig, and let me just say that I was in no way whatsoever disappointed in the high quality of humor in this blog- in fact I was greatful for the headset wrapped around my head, so when the uncontrollable gaffaws burst forth from my mouth, I was able to pretend like it was just some funny customer I was talking to on the phone.
Now besides the fact that this blog was just plain funny- I have to say there were two main reasons I truly appreciated this. One is: I work with a Korean girl who I truly enjoy being around. I love her personality, and I think she is a great girl. However, the whole idea of personal space is clearly something foreign to her. I know that I can agree with Merideth in saying I tend to have less of a space/ touch issue, and I have probably fallen victim to bursting other's bubbles from time to time. You would think that I would find it difficult to pick up on this tendency in others, since it is a tendency I tend to have of my own. I do have to admit I have found myself pinned up against my cubical wall trying to get room for air when my friend is talking to me. Each time I inch my rolly chair an inch closer to the wall, she inches her chair two inches closer to me. Picturing Mr. Sprawl himself cowering over Austin in his crouched space brought nothing but familiar feelings and empathy to me. Reason number 2 as to why this blog was the best ever: I think that kid is in my ward. I am absolutely serious, and I think I need to talk to you about it.