Monday, July 03, 2006

What is it about Arab guys?

Yesterday I clocked out from work and headed out to the parking lot only to find my hubby w/ the sleeves of his thobe rolled up preparing to fix our flat tire! Beemers are nice but it's a pain in the butt to fix a flat tire on one of these things. For one, to figure out how to get the spare to release from the bottom of the car takes a Ph.D.... it took probably 15 minutes to figure this part out, alone. Thankfully, four other guys came out to help and we got it fixed in prob 30 minutes.

I must say that Arab guys are the **best** when it comes to helping out a stranger or a friend. It doesn't matter how long it takes, they are willing to do whatever to get the job done, and that's really an awesome feeling. These guys pulled out supplies from their cars, got dirty, sweaty, and did all of this in temps of about 120 degrees, if not hotter! No kidding. It was 42 celcius yesterday (not taking into acct. the humidity) and they were all working in the sun to get this tire changed. I must say... unless you're a female, American guys, usually, aren't helpful like this. You could probably wait for hours in a parking lot w/out one single person offering to help you... unless, like I said, you happen to be a female. I guess that's why ppl pay for AAA and such in the States.... just a phone call away and they're out to help you fix flats and such... but wouldn't it be nice if ppl were as friendly and helpful?

I remember a car accident I had about 8 yrs ago... I totalled my RX-7 on I-35 in Dallas and NO ONE stopped to help me at first, and this was during rush hour traffic - so you KNOW that ppl saw what happened. Finally, I guess after about 15 minutes or so, some guy stopped and offered me a ride. So nice to think back on it... I was in shock pretty much... the accident was terrible - I lost control of my car and hit the cement medium in the middle of the highway not once, but twice, while weaving in and out of traffic. What surprises me the most is that I didn't hit any other cars... I can remember my steering wheel going crazy and I couldn't gain control of the car to save my life. It was a terrifying experience and it taught me a huge lesson... but... what shocks me more is that no one stopped to help immediately. Thank God I wasn't hurt!

But anyway... this isn't the only time I've had trouble and no one helped.... and I'm a girl... so imagine some guy needing help in the city... no one gives a crap. In the country and smaller towns, you have better luck cuz ppl know each other and are more friendly, but in the cities ppl shy away from helping strangers. It's a shame really.

When my husband and I were in Beirut, the ppl were really helpful and friendly there as well. We got lost and prob 8 strangers, no lie, stopped to talk to us and tell us how to get to where we were going. You know, that's a great feeling! I love friendly ppl... and I really felt that in Beirut. It's a beautiful city w/ beautiful ppl !!

Yeah I know... most of these guys that helped us yesterday know my husband but still... they could have just asked in passing if everything was okay and left it at that, but they didn't. One guy insisted on taking the jack from my husband and started jacking up the car.... I was really surprised and it made me feel really good that they were so willing to jump in and lend a hand w/out even asking. Some ppl are really caring here... and it's nice.


TechZ said...

I've actually noticed this myself. Although I cannot speak for USA, I know for a fact that despite who you are, people in Bahrain will stop to help you.

Olivia said...

I'm sorry! I always have so much to say about your blogs - some people just make me talk, and you are one.

So here goes:

America is of course friendlier than England. 30 years ago my mother worked in London and she never got over what she saw one day: a moped collided with a car, the rider was lying on the side of the road needing help. No one stopped, they walked past or stepped over him - and this shocked her.

(Like the time in The Bronx when a domestic dispute that turned into murder was witnessed by hundreds of eyes behind curtains in the apartments surrounding the courtyard. No one called the police because everyone assumed someone else would do it. So what if the police would have got 20 phonecalls? The woman might still be alive.)

And London rivals NYC for inhumanity.

Trivial example, but I watched a study.
In London, an old lady dropped a letter on the pavement a few paces away from a letterbox. They had time lapse cameras and they showed people walking past it aaaaalllllll day.

The same experiment was carried out in a village. A couple of people walked past, maybe they didn't notice, but prety much person number 3, a mother with two children, stopped to pick it up and deliver it to the post box a few steps away.

They did the same thing with a man in office clothing and a briefcase. He lay down on the pathway along the river Thames with his briefcase at his head, and pretended to sleep. Over the course of an hour, people walked past, a few stopped to look - but in a city like this he could be drunk, drugged...

He did the same on a village green, and within 15 minutes an employee came out of a local shop to tap him on the shoulder, ask if he was ok, and stay with him till he was able to get up. (He pretended he had low blood sugar, I think.)


One time, I left my front gate and headed up the street. There is a retirement home not far from me at the end of the street. There was this old man who doddered at a snail's pace (really) and for him to reach the post box at the top of the road would have taken the better part of an hour, where it takes me 3 minutes.

I passed him and he called out, so I stopped and went back, helpfulness all over my face. He asked if I could drop the letter off for him, and I did. For an old English person to ask this - to trust a young person, a stranger, and foreign-looking at that - was probably a huge risk for him to take, but he did, and I came through for him.

Olivia said...

Omigosh, sorry that really was long! I just didn't know how not to share it all because it's relevant...

The Moody Minstrel said...

Nice story, Olivia!

It really does depend on where you are.

Actually, there was a Japanese TV program where they did an experiment. They went to several large cities all over the world and had an obviously foreign-looking (relative to the location) young woman wander around a street looking lost and hysterical. The point was to see whether anyone would actually help her.

Actually, the actress was helped just about everywhere. In cities such as Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, and Beirut she was helped almost immediately. The funny thing was that, in cities that had reputations for being cold such as New York, Berlin, and Paris (and London), people actually did stop to help...sometimes rather quickly. In fact, the only cities where everyone just walked past without trying to help at all were Hamburg and (ironically) Tokyo.

Man, am I glad that I grew up in Oregon...I have had people stop and help me more than once. (Of course, that was in the 80s...)

tooners said...

oh you guys... i LOVE your long comments.... no worries at all! i absolutely am consumed w/ reading your thoughts and all the wonderful tales.

techz, it's nice to be helped here. this is the first time i witnessed this and i liked it.

olivia... wow! you know, whenever i've been to london they've always been so rude to me. i always thought it was because i'm an american. no matter how polite i am, they're rude. i sit and just shake my head at your stories.. especially about the moped and car. i will say that once when we were in london, we got lost. we asked this older couple who were out for a stroll where we were and how to get to our hotel and they told us to follow them. that was the first and last time i've seen anyone being nice. i wonder why that is.... i mean here your mother witnessed this some 30 odd years ago and they're still this way. i hate to say it but most of the british that i meet here in bahrain are rather rude. my hair dresser is british and she's quite pleasant but it's a professional setting. we once went to the british club for an event and not one single person spoke to us. i hated it. and that incident in new york really amazed me. can you imagine crying for help and everyone ignores you?! phew.

moody, i grew up in indiana and ppl are way more friendly there. when my husband went there w/ me to visit he couldn't get over how nice everyone was.. much more talkative and down to earth - - i love it there. i think the cities are really bad... especially dallas and california, and have gotten to the point that ppl just turn their heads and pretend you don't exist.

Olivia said...

It's hit and miss when it comes to finding friendly Brits.

I think if they're of my generation (late 20s/early 30s) or later, they are a lot more broad-minded, better-traveled, more chatty, and will be more willing to help.

Only thing is, tourists feel safer asking older people, who are expected to "know everything" and not steal your bag, but still sometimes hang on to their distrust of foreigners.

Now here is something I have long complained of: Americans unconditionally love Brits. It's a generalisation, I know, but stay with it.
Why do Brits never return the love?

I think deep down they're jealous. Americans have such a free manner about them. I was once watching an American sitcom with my aunt's husband (can't get more English than he). The father hugged and kissed his kid, and expressed some patriotic sentiment. My relative said, "Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh, Americans are such odd people!"

They hate it when Americans express a love of their country. There is no equivalent here.

Oh oh ! I had another point and forgot it!

Oh yes...when I was living in the US, I was never ashamed to say I came from England, but WAS always ashamed of Brits in America. Worst case I can remember occurred in the garden section at Wal-Mart one summer and made a deep impression:

This verrrrry colonial sort of Brit in his khaki shorts with socks pulled up to the knees came stalking into the entrance, puffing and blustering, stopped and exclaimed to one and all very loudly: Is this a proper shop???

Flabbergasted silence from said "one and all", while my mother and I cringed inside...

Olivia said...

Oh! I read an article somewhere about why people in cities are unfriendly, it's some sort of assault against human survival instincts - I will look for it and let you know.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Tooners and Olivia, Wow! I must've just been lucky when I was in London for my honeymoon!

The only people that were really rude to me in London were the really condescending clerks in a menswear shop in Oxford Circus (then again, I was dressed for comfort rather than fashion at the time, so they probably thought I was some cheap yob) and some of the staff at the Tower Hotel. (Then again, I was with a Japanese woman as part of a Japanese honeymoon tour group...and they all thought I was Japanese! When I spoke to them in [native-sounding American] English, they freaked out!) (Like, hello, my skin is WHITE, my eyes are GREEN, and my hair is BROWN? Hello?) There were also a few people I bumped into...mainly shop clerks...who wouldn't speak to me at all no matter how hard I tried. (In fact, one African-looking clerk at a Burger King asked to take my order, and when I started to give it he glared at me and walked away, forcing me to get into another line.) Then there was that obnoxious, Arabic-looking woman at the VAT counter at Heathrow...

Okay, there were lots of rude people there. However, there were also a lot of very helpful people. There were several situations where people near us sensed we were having trouble and volunteered help, asking if we needed to borrow a pen, handing us the jam jars or salt shakers from their tables, and so on. The stationmaster at Paddington Station was not only helpful but a great chap, as were most of the staff and shopkeepers we ran into in and around Windsor and Greenwich.

In retrospect, except for that damned Burger King clerk and the guys at that menswear shop, the most annoyingly rude people we had to deal with were Japanese and American tourists! I guess it must be as Olivia put it: luck of the draw.

TechZ said...

On our trip to europe, we went to a few countries, Swiss, Germany, France, Amsterdam, and all to the main cities. No matter who we asked for directions or help, they always were nice enough to point us in the right direction.

We never really encountered a "rude" or unhelpful person, maybe we just got lucky.