Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Dangers of Being Tall

In 2011 I made a goal to make my bed every day that year, and I did it.  I decided to continue that goal this year and I did a great job of doing it until I moved to Arizona.  For some reason Arizona has made me a little lazier than I used to be (but only a little).  I recently decided to get back on the horse and start making my bed again.

The aftermath of my height-induced accident
On Friday morning Kevin and I were chatting as he was getting ready to leave for work and I was getting ready to leave for school.  While we were talking I started making my bed.  I must be a violent sleeper because when I wake up in the morning my bed is far from made.  Often my blanket is wadded up at the end of bed.  I started straightening out my blanket as one would lay out a picnic blanket, by waving one end up and down.  Directly over my bed there’s a fan with a light fixture on it.  I have hit the fan numerous times while changing my shirt which usually results in me yelling out in pain, depending on how fast the blades are going.  While I was straightening my blanket my hand hit the dangly thing you pull on to turn the fan and lights on and off.  I hit it with such force that it flew into one of the light fixtures and shattered it causing shards of glass to rain down all over my room.  I was a little surprised.

This is what my bed looked like when I got home from school
What was most surprising, however, was how Kevin and I reacted to my suddenly destroying a light cover.  Kevin, who owns the house and the light I just broke, said very matter-of-factly, “I saw that coming.  I should’ve warned you.”  I replied, equally matter-of-factly, “I did not expect that happen.  I should probably put on some shoes before I cut myself.”  We were both remarkably unstunned by what had just happened.  I had to go to school and Kevin had to get to work so I just shut my bedroom door and left the cleaning for later.

On my way home from school I stopped by the Home Depot to get a replacement light cover (because I'm a good renter).  The cashier at the Home Depot was really chatty (note: I prefer talkative cashiers to the quiet, boring kind) and I explained to her how I'd accidentally broken the light fixture.  She said, "Honey, I always hit this one light in my living room when I'm sweeping, but it never breaks.  I swear, one day I'm just gonna look at it wrong and it'll shatter because I've hit the darned thing so many times."  Her story made me feel less silly for breaking the light cover and gave me a funny mental image of a middle aged woman in her living room scowling at her light and then watching it burst into pieces.

Kevin told me that night that our other roommate, who's also tall,  had broken a light cover in his room in the exact same way that I had.  It's tough being tall.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I Almost Said No

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but I’ve been busier than usual and haven’t found the time.  I hope this makes you laugh.  Also, I share this story with permission (unlike my last post about Kevin.  Also, he still hasn’t read it so I think I’m in the clear).

My first week in Arizona was a little lonely as expected and I was excited to make friends as quickly as possible.  When I attended the grad student orientation that week I purposely wore a BYU shirt hoping it would help me meet some Mormons (preferably the single, pretty, female kind).  I had forgotten to register for orientation and since I wasn’t on their list, the check-in people wouldn’t give me a free t-shirt.  They did say, however, that if I waited until everyone else checked in they would give me one if there were any left.

While I was waiting for my t-shirt a small, Chinese woman walked up to me and said, “You went to BYU?” and I said that I did.  She said, “We shared an office.”  At the moment I recognized her.  At BYU all the Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean teachers share an office.  It’s really big and we mostly kept to our own language group.  I didn’t know this woman, but I’d seen her many times.  She didn’t know my name and I didn’t know hers, but we were both happy to see each other and we exchanged phone numbers.  Her name is Hongyi and I was not expecting us to become good friends.

A few weeks later I got a random text from Hongyi that said: “I am taking driving class and I have learning permit.  After driving class, can you help me to practice more?  Thanks.”  My first thought was, my dad would tell me not to let a foreigner drive my car.  I’d never seen her drive before and had no idea if she was good or bad.  Honestly, I almost said no, but then I applied the Golden Rule and replied: “Yeah, I’d love to.”  Not the most honest text I've ever sent.  And so began yet another plot to a foreign film.

I told Hongyi that we should practice driving on Sunday morning since there would be fewer people on the road.  On the first Sunday I rolled out of bed and drove over to her house in my pajamas.  As I was driving over to her house I kept asking myself how I'd gotten myself into this situation.  I was fairly nervous because I’d never seen her drive, but I relaxed when she walked out of her house already dressed for church.  Her church clothes made her seem very competent and that put me at ease.  I had her get in the driver’s seat and she told me that she was so nervous.  I could empathize.  I showed her how to put the car in drive and we were off.  It was immediately evident that she needed to practice a lot.  She stayed in all the lines and didn’t hit anything, but she drove painfully slowly, made left turns dangerously slowly, and parked in four spots instead of one.  Luckily only once did I have to say, “Stop.  Stop!  STOP!!!”  I was glad when I got back behind the wheel.

Hongyi's English is very good, but it's not great and there were a few times when she didn't understand what I was saying.  For instance, I'd say, "Use your blinker," and she wouldn't do anything so I'd say, "Use your turn signal," and then she would.  Our language barrier made me nervous, too.

After our first time driving I didn't give her any feedback on her driving because she was already so nervous while she drove.  The next week I made a list of some things that she could master that day.  First, I taught her how to stop without giving us whiplash.  Then we practiced going the speed limit.  She would go 20 in a 40 and so I kept saying, “Hongyi, what’s the speed limit?” and she’d say, “40,” and I’d say, “And how fast are you going?” and she’d say, “Oh!” and speed up.  She improved a lot that day and her progress was very gratifying.

Our third lesson was when things started to get really fun.  We practiced parking and driving at Pima Community College.  The parking lot is enormous and there’s no one there on Sunday morning.  While we were driving in the parking lot I was talking to Hongyi and she was focusing more on talking than driving.  I said, “Hongyi!  You just ran a stop sign!”  She apologize and said, “There is a word in Chinese [she then said some word in Chinese].  I don’t know how to say it in English.  It means that you cannot do two things at the same time.”  I wanted to say, “Oh, we’ve got a word for that in English – it’s called man,” but I thought she wouldn’t get the joke so I said, “You're saying that you can't multitask.”  On another day we practiced driving and talking at the same time.  It wasn’t a skill that I had thought about practicing, but she needed the practice.  Even though the parking lot was completely empty we pretended there were other cars there.  If she turned too sharply into a parking spot I’d yell, “Hongyi!  You just hit a parked car!”  and she’d apologize.  She always backed up really slowly – painfully slowly.  When she’d back up I'd start to say, “There are cars waiting your spot.  They’re getting mad.  They’re honking at you now.”  And then she’d drive a little faster and drive through an imaginary parked car and I’d say, “Oh, you just hit a parked car.”  It was a lot of fun and we both laughed a lot.

A few weeks ago I took Hongyi to the DMV to take her driving test.  She’d gotten a lot better, but neither of us was sure if she’d pass.  She was really nervous and I had to keep encouraging her and telling her that she’d already passed her test in driving school and since she'd done it before she could do it again.  I waited nervously in a plastic chair while she took the test and when she came back she had a huge smile on her face because she’d passed!  I was so ecstactic that I wanted to give her a big hug and jump around in circles, but due to our different sizes I just gave her a high five.  She probably didn't want to hug my stomach.

Hongyi in front of my car with her new license
We went out to eat to celebrate and she let me pick the restaurant.  I picked the Texas Roadhouse because they have the best rolls in the whole wide world.  As we were driving there I said, “I’m so excited!  I’m soooo hungry!”  Hongyi said, “Oh, I thought you were excited because I passed my test.”  I said, “Oh yeah, that too, but the rolls at the Texas Roadhouse are so good!”  We had a great meal and it was blast.  That whole afternoon I was so happy.  I was thrilled for Hongyi and together we really had accomplished a lot.  As we were eating I was struck by how we’d become such good friends.  When we ran into each other at orientation I didn’t even know her name and then two months later we were great friends.  Helping Hongyi practice driving is one of my favorite memories from the semester, and I almost said no.  I'm so glad I said yes.