Be Thankful For A Decent Education

, , , , | Working | October 14, 2018

(There have been many jokes and jabs about US Americans not knowing anything about geography or foreign cultures. But let me tell you, this problem exists in other places, too. I live in Finland. Some years ago, I was interning at a radio station for my journalism studies. It was a typical “light” commercial station with top-40 hits, hosts chatting about different easy topics between songs, pop-culture-related interviews etc. This happens at the end of November. I am chatting with one of the daytime hosts.)

Me: “Morning! What’s up?”

Host: “Morning! I was just wondering what I’ll talk about on the air. Because I was wondering, like, you know how it is Thanksgiving today, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I think it is.”

Host: “And like, it is weird that they celebrate it so much in the US, but not at all in Finland or, like, any other Nordic countries. Do they even celebrate Thanksgiving anywhere in Europe?”

Me: “Well, no, I don’t think so, probably not in the same style as the US, at least.”

Host: “Right, and I am going to discuss why that is. Is it some kind of culture and attitude thing? Americans are more open and express their feelings more in public so, like, maybe being publicly thankful does not fit in Finnish culture, and that is why we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving? And should we, with like turkey and pumpkins and stuff?”

Me: “It’s probably because US-style Thanksgiving is more or less a national holiday or at least a continental one?”

Host: “How do you mean?”

Me: “I’m not an expert, but I think historically the modern American Thanksgiving has its root in the 16th century. The colonization of America, pilgrims leaving Europe to establish new settlements, and all that. They celebrated surviving the journey, and the new land, and gave thanks to God every year for good harvest that would be enough to get them through the following winter and spring. We are still in Europe, so we don’t have that tradition, but Canada and US have it. I mean, Europeans have different harvest festivals that are in some ways similar. In Finland, that would probably be Kekri, but it’s not really celebrated the same way.”

Host: *pause* “Right.”

(She seemed very suspicious of my explanation and still talked on air about how lack of Thanksgiving in Finland has to do with “being introverted and privacy-loving culture.” At least listeners had fun pointing out the same things I already did. And the host calls herself a professional journalist.)

He Wrote A Book And Went To The Moon And Knows My Son And…

, , , , | Friendly | September 26, 2018

(I’m helping an older lady out with her garage sale. She knows my parents and has just asked why I have such a great interest in Ireland.)

Me: “Oh, it’s got a lot to do with the history. Michael Collins—”

Older Lady: “Michael Collins?!”

Me: “Yes, he was—”

Older Lady: “My son wrote a book with Michael Collins! I’ll have to show it to you! Oh, you’re right; he’s just the nicest man.”

Me: “Um, no, I meant—”

Older Lady: “He visited the college here once. I saw his picture in the newspaper. It said, ‘Michael Collins visiting with other students from Ireland,’ so I thought I’d surprise my son! I called up the college to see if they had his number, but they wouldn’t give it to me. They said he was a student. But he wrote a book with my son!”

Me: “Um… ah… You know, there’s more than one, uh, Michael Collins.”

Older Lady: “REALLY?”

(After she walked away, I leaned over and said to my mother, “Let’s not mention a Michael Collins was one of the guys on the moon, too.” Mom says that to this day, she can’t get this lady to understand that more than one person has this incredibly common name.)

Going Down In History As A Bad Customer

, , , , | Right | September 26, 2018

(I am working a cashier shift. A customer with a rather large order enters my line. He seems a bit disgruntled; however, we are encouraged to talk with our customers, and he has a fairly long order, so I try to initiate conversation.)

Me: “Hello! How are you—”

Customer: *sighs* “I’m sorry. No offense to you, but your generation is so uneducated.”

(Normally I would just nod along and finish the order, but the order is quite substantial and he will be there for a few minutes, so for some reason I decide to humor him.)

Me: “Oh? How so? If you don’t mind me asking…”

Customer: “Well, you guys don’t know anything important! You guys don’t know anything about history!”

(Little does he know, I study history in my free time, for fun, so I think this could be amusing.)

Me: “You think so?”

Customer: “Yeah! I mean, look. Do you know anything about December 7th, 1941?”

Me: “Pearl Harbor.”

Customer: “Oh, well, yeah, but how about June 12th, 1944?”

Me: “Um… are you talking about D-Day?”

(He got the date wrong.)

Customer: “Yeah, well, you know anything about the Black Panthers?!”

Me: “Yeah, the civil rights group.”

Customer: “Yeah! You know! Kill all the whities?!”

Me: “Um… Not exactly.”

(This went on for another minute before I finished the order. I answered all of his questions, minus one about the Korean War, as politely as possible. By the time the order finished he wouldn’t say a word; he just paid me and walked off. The employee on the register next to me started laughing. We later told our manager what happened, who then proceeded to high-five me.)

Pearls Of Irony

, , , , | Right | September 12, 2018

(I get a phone call from out of state, which happens more often than it should. I happen to answer it.)

Me: “Moshi-Moshi?”

(Because I don’t recognize the number, I have a little fun with it. It’s the polite Japanese greeting over the telephone.)

Caller: *pause* “Is this [Person]?”

Me: “Nope, sorry. You’ve called Hawaii.”

Caller: “Oh. Was that Japanese?”

Me: “Yep.”

Caller: “Isn’t that kind of ironic?”

Me: “What is?”

Caller: “That you’re Japanese and you live in Hawaii.”

Me: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Caller: “Well, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, right? Isn’t that ironic?”

(I was stunned and slightly offended, and decided to hang up.)

They Are All Relatively Ignorant

, , , , , | Learning | September 12, 2018

(I am teaching a 12th-grade journalism class.)

Me: “For today’s assignment, I want you think of someone famous that you admire. They can be living or dead, as long as they are a real person. Imagine that you have the entire day to interview that person, write at least five questions, and try to think about how he or she would answer. Be creative! Here is a list of famous people to help give you an idea, in case you don’t have someone in mind.”

(The list contains a variety of people from history and the present day that most students should be familiar with, especially by the time they are in high school.)

Student #1: “Ms. [My Name], I don’t know who this person is.”

(I walk over to the student’s desk. To my astonishment, he is pointing to Albert Einstein’s name on the list.)

Me: *thinking the student is pulling my leg* “Come on, you know him! He was the scientist that came up with the formula E=MC2.”

Student #1: “Never heard of him.”

(I was shocked that even though I picked common people that are usually discussed in social studies and other subjects in school, these kids had no idea who I was talking about! The only names they did recognize were Dr. Seuss and Martin Luther King, Jr. But, they only knew MLK, Jr. because they don’t have to go to school on his birthday! They had no idea why he was important!)

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