Thursday, May 3, 2018

[Daily] Thursday 2018.05.03 - China and the Muni, both are crowded

On Tuesday night I had dinner with my good friend Julie. We spent the end of the evening chatting in the first floor lounge of her apartment building. Before I left, we headed back to her apartment to get my backpack. We stepped into the elevator, joining two others: two men who looked to be delivering items (one had a dolly piled with household goods). Then a third guy stepped in, just making it in before the doors closed.

There were five of us with roughly enough personal space to raise our arms to 30-degree angles without touching—cozy but not uncomfortable. Julie joked, "Hm, it's crowded in here."

The third guy said, trying to joke back, "Have you been to China?"

There was an awkward silence. "Uhhhh.... yeah," Julie said.

"It's, ah, super crowded over there."

"Have you been on the L during rush hour?" Julie said.

Then the doors opened and we got out, along with one of the delivery guys. After I got my backpack, we went back to the elevators and ran into the delivery guy also heading back down, and the three of us shared a chuckle and "wtf?"

A few thoughts:
  • This story told without additional context is really half the story. For instance, some context is that Julie, the delivery guy, and I are all Asian, and the third guy was white. Rough ages: late 20s/mid-30s, except the delivery guy who may have been in his early 40s.
  • Going one layer deeper, Julie is second-generation Korean, I'm second-generation Taiwanese, and I don't know about the delivery guy. Perhaps none of us was attached to China as a country at all.
  • Yet this was awkward for everyone, third guy included. And the three of us who met back at the elevator were able to have an immediate unspoken common ground.
  • I truly think the third guy said the first thing that popped in his head and immediately realized how weird it was. 
  • I wish I could tell him this. Unfortunately, in most such situations there is no opportunity for a group post-mortem.
  • At face value, it's weird that saying a country is crowded can be awkward. You have to go a layer deeper to: what does a statement like that imply that the speaker is thinking, such that that is the first thing that comes to mind? On the flip side, he is likely wondering, how did the thing I just say get perceived by everyone? What do they think of me now? It's natural to assume the worst.
  • I am bad enough at remembering faces that I don't think I would recognize Third Guy if I saw him again in a different context—or even in the same apartment building. There could be a different kind of awkward if we do ever meet again and he does remember the encounter and assumes I do too.
  • Any potential resolution most likely hinges on another chance meeting between Julie and Third Guy in the elevator.

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