Monday, November 12, 2007

12 November 2007

Coming back on a ferry late one evening, my friend and I sit on the open-aired upper deck in order to enjoy the cool night air and the sound of ocean waves. Just as we take off, the door to the deck section barges open, and two ladies walk out with a, “Here we are, World! Come and get it!” presence. They look at our side of the boat, and then the other side of the boat, and one of them barks, “So which side wants us?? Huh? Huh? Which side’s gonna be the winner?”


…and perhaps a bit of fear ensue.

“Alright, we’ll go over here!!” (Doh! They’re coming on our side!)
“Guess you guys are the lucky ones!” (Doh! They’re taking the seats directly in front of us!)

I give a lazy smile, hoping that I’m exuding a subdued energy that will invite them to keep it quiet and peaceful, but it’s to no avail. They are completely oblivious to the idea of shared space, and pick up a loud and raucous conversation, complete with guffaws and knee slaps, that I’m certain the people inside and downstairs could probably hear as well.

I close my eyes and try to find the peace from within, because Buddha taught not to seek peace from without anyway.

I continue minding my own business, breathing in the fresh ocean air, when the louder woman says to me, “Hey can I put my feet up?” Up? Up where? I wonder as I look down at her feet that have just come out of her slippers and then at the 3 inch corner of space on my chair, in disbelief that she is actually making this rude and rather unhygienic request. I don’t immediately respond because I’m so surprised that someone could actually think this is appropriate, and she adds, “Don’t worry, they’re clean,” and laughs like she is a beautiful princess whose feet I should be grateful to have on my seat.

Being the nonconfrontational-to-a-fault person that I am, I murmur, “Um, okay…?”, hoping that the uncomfortable look on my face will make her realize the absurdity of her request, but she happily and selfishly kicks her feet up.

I swear one of her toenails scrapes my thigh.

I look helplessly at my friend, who is glaring at her. He scoots over loudly, and says, “Come on, move this way,” and I can feel his fire igniting. I really don’t want to make a scene, so I quietly scoot over. I steal a glance at them; they don’t seem to be paying attention, and I hope we’ll make it back to Hong Kong in peace.

Putting his arm protectively around me, my friend loudly says, “That is disgusting!” I shush him, but it’s too late.

“I can HEAR you,” she says, stopping her conversation with her friend, who mirrors the “oh crap” expression I’m sure I’m wearing.

“GOOD!” he retorts.

“Do you have a problem with me?”

“Yes, it’s disgusting that you’ve put your feet up on her chair. That is considered rude in some cultures.”

“Oh really, where?” she challenges.

Thailand, for example.” (I was thinking the same thing.)

“Well, excuse me, but are you Thai?”

“That’s beside the point.”


“It really doesn’t matter if we’re Thai,” I chime in firmly, albeit somewhat unwillingly.

“Of course it matters. ARE YOU?” (Note: her feet are still defiantly up on the seat.)

“No, but I lived there for a couple years,” he says pointedly.

“Well, it’s not rude if you’re not Thai and anyway, I asked first. She should have said no if it was a problem.”

“It was a rather obliging question, though,” I say.

“You could have said no, and it would have been fine.”

“You’re right, that’s a fair point – “ I start to say…

…but my friend interjects, "No, it’s disgusting, and it’s rude of you to have asked at all. We don’t know where you feet have been." His eyes are unflinching.

“Fine. I’ll move them then. Are you happy?” She loudly and reluctantly sets her feet down, and sarcastically adds, “Enjoy your evening.”

Her friend remains silent with her head down the entire time, clearly embarrassed by feet-lady’s behavior. The fact of the matter is, it WAS a rude and obliging question. However, she is right that I should have said NO, and so I accept this as a lesson to be more forthright in the future. I mean, is avoiding confrontation at the cost of contracting a foot fungus really sensible? I know I’m a yoga teacher, but I meant I want to see you bare your SOUL, not your SOLE. Silly.

Wiggling my toes (don’t worry, they’re clean! I think…) at you- Leah.

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