Sunday, June 25, 2017
There are some times when I feel like an alien in my surroundings, and other's when I feel like a native. It is, nevertheless, a very true saying, "You can take the girl out of England, but you can't take England out of the girl!", and this week, in particular, it altered slightly, in "You can take the London Cabbie out of the cab, but ...".
When asked, and I am often asked, on both sides of the pond, "What is the biggest difference", I cannot answer in one sentence. This is not because I am incapable of answering anything in a simple sentence, but because it is impossible to give an individual answer. Each week, (and thirteen years on, I am still finding 'firsts',) there is something that makes me think, "Now that is different!" Driving is a constant! Although this is probably a big difference, I am not sure it constitutes 'the biggest'. However, I am ever grateful that I learned to drive in England, and had nearly four decades under my belt, rather than the other way around!
This week, the guy who delivers our fed-ex parcels, commented on my tan. "Wow, you have got a good tan going there!", he said. I commented that it was purely from walking and swimming. I stay out of the sun whenever possible, and any change in colouration has taken thirteen years. Thankfully, now at the turn of the seasons, (which could be in the same 24 hour period,) if my skin is subjected to solar rays, I do not turn into a tomato, and then back into a ghost! I am able to venture out to the post box without an umbrella, or 'factor 50' smothered over my arms, although rarely do I go without a hat!
Apparently, Friday was due to hit an all time record temperature, or at least equal one already on file! With the temperature hitting 104 Fahrenheit, (a mere 40 degrees Celsius,) it felt hot! As I walked from the office to the car, I felt as if I was walking into a furnace. However, had I been in England, last week, although the temperatures were not quite as high, they were unseasonably hot, and most uncharacteristic!
It has been quite warm over the past couple of weeks here, Perhaps it was the heat that caused a slight blimp in the mind of the city road repairs unit, when they decided that Saturday, midday, would be a good time to replace the paving around one of the busiest junctions in town. My initial reaction, when seeing the traffic at a standstill, with everyone happy to sit and wait for the lights to change four times before being able to turn, was to jump into the drivers seat, and shift my daughter into that of the passenger. However, as she often remarks, she is the daughter of two cab drivers, grand-daughter of one of the greatest (we were not the only one's to think his knowledge was above all others; pun definitely intended,) and niece to numerous! It is, she say, 'in the blood'! We espied a route that would take us into the car park, with a few twists and turns, and proceeded forth. I do not think I am unique in my thinking, but do tend to notice every break in the pavement, and alternative exit routes. Turning off the main path, Samantha drove through two small strip centres, and up to the exit, before swinging back down, around the petrol station, to the first row of parking, which was virtually empty. As we got out of the car, we did a 'happy dance', and saw that the vehicle that had been in front of us, had barely moved, due to the congestion along the path that is outside the large hypermarket. "It's in the blood", she announced to the air!
My shopping list would err on the side of bigger differences. Flour and corn tortillas, black beans, chipotle mayonnaise, a jar of medium salsa, (red and green,) and of course, my new favourite, Pachyrhizus erosus, commonly known as jicama! This strange, but delightful root, is quite delicious. It looks like a turnip, has the texture of a granny smith apple, and the subtle flavour of a pear (at least in my opinion). I chop it into small squares, eat a hefty portion, and then put the rest into a salad. All these items were placed in my cart before heading to the cash register.
"Slow down, ma'am, you ain't going nowhere fast today", laughed a store employee, as we walked quickly to the exit. Walking quickly is what we do, and that perhaps is another 'big' difference. I am the proverbial hare, going past the tortoise, who takes things very slowly, and in the summer, I even take the nap by the tree! However, nothing actually passes me by, as the tortoises also take the nap! Little did the employee realise that his double negative was going to be the fact!
There was no way out of the parking lot. Every exit was jammed. We bobbed and weaved as best we could, but were still in a queue to get into the next queue, which would eventually lead us to the exit, where there was another long queue leading up to the lights, through which were more queues. Fortunately, the way we wanted to go was away from the traffic, but it was not going to be easy getting to the front of the line. A car was indicating to turn down the lane where we were sat, and the driver sat waiting for six months to pass. (We assumed they were actually waiting for Christmas!) I saw an opening, and told Samantha to follow my lead.
In his hey-day, my dad had been the master of all! Of course, he was my dad, and therefore my hero, but he was able to turn a potential disaster into a successful story. Directing traffic was his forte! The small family business that dad and his two brothers owned, took school children on educational tours around London. Quite often, extraordinary delays would take place, and the likelihood of the pack arriving on time would be put in jeopardy. Always preceded by the warning, "Don't you ever do this", dad would stand in the middle of the road, and play 'traffic cop', stopping the cars so that the children could cross the road, or to allow the coach (bus) to turn into a side road. Although traffic was heavy in London, it was not quite as congested as nowadays, and he managed to achieve his goal every time. Disregarding my father's warning, I jumped out of the car, and headed to the junction, where I started to direct the traffic. Amazingly, my authority was not questioned, and the drivers followed my directions. In fact, all appeared to be smiling, and appreciated the instruction!
A look of discouragement came across most of the drivers, as I beckoned Samantha to join the next queue, and promptly jumped into the passenger seat of the car. Not a car hooter, nor a cross word was heard in this drama, as everyone appeared to settle in for the long haul. We sat and edged our way down to the next set of lights, which would take us into the next queue, which would lead us, hopefully, to an open road, the only route of four to be clear, or reasonably so. The road upon which we sat split into two lanes, and whilst one was a dedicated left turn, the other allowed traffic to go straight ahead, or right. We were aware that by going right, the only route around would take us onto the Interstate frontage road, which was completely blocked. There was no other way around. Straight across was an apartment complex. Said complex did have an exit, next to the entrance. We needed to go left. We went straight ahead, and once again, swinging the car around, made a u-turn back to the road upon which we hoped would be our last queue. Many followed! However, the apartment complex entrance and exit area was rather restricted, and once again, another congestion occurred. At the front of the new queue, we were unperturbed.
Thank goodness for the politeness of the drivers in Austin! Opening my window, I put out my hand, then extended my thumb, in an upward position. "Of course you can cut in", was not heard, but definitely gestured, as it was not expected for a passenger to make a request signal. Perhaps they thought it was an emergency. We felt a little guilty at taking advantage of the situation, but the guilt lasted for less time than it took for the traffic light to change, and we were finally on a clear path heading home. Calculating our performance, we realised we had probably saved anywhere between half an hour and three quarters, by bringing some of our know how into play. Some may say it was simply a lack of patience on our part, and I would simply nod and agree, but then I would be at home and they would not!
Perhaps, the 'biggest' difference could be in the category of 'the pace of life'. Little things, that seem big to me, but have become a way of life, such as shaking my clothes before wearing, (in case of spiders or bugs,) closing the door to keep out the heat, taking a jacket to wear inside the restaurant, and buying jicama, are all part and parcel of the new me. The list in itself, is endless. Sometimes we are thought to be intimidating, (I am not sure why, but the accent has that effect,) and sometimes we are just thought of as eccentric; although being characterised as eccentric is often a plus! Directing traffic is not usually done by anyone out of uniform!
The hottest day on record (or equal to the hottest day on record) gave way to rain, and a slight cooling off period. "Was anyone down at the pool?" asked Dana. "Why no, it barely got above 85 degrees!" was the answer. This last week in England, at 85 degrees my pool would have probably been seen as a blessing!
Never will England be taken out of the girl, although a little bit of Texas goes with her each time she returns home, and realises as she attempts to pick up where she left off, that there is more of that southern state culture within than she cares to admit! "Got any hot sauce or Cholula to go on this?" is something for which I had never asked! Tabasco by any other name ...............!
Rain on this hot day might prevent me from swimming today, as an electric storm is brewing, but an hour is a long time and it may just dissipate into non-existence. Heading into the seventh month, we are looking forward to hot, hot and more hot, and the pace becomes so much slower, so not much else left to say in this post, but to coin a phrase, another day, another dollar, and hopefully will come ............ another story!