Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vietnamese Lady Shouting On the Cell Phone While Squatting in the Rice Position in Front of the Pet Food Store, We Miss You




About a mile from the house at a nearby strip mall, there is a pet store that we like to go to get food for the cat and the dog. The first few times that we had gone we had noticed an unusual site. To begin with, Chandler, Arizona is not a terribly diverse place. It’s not like Los Angeles. So much to our surprise every time we would visit the pet food store to stock up, we would see this lady squatting, shouting in Vietnamese with cell phone in one hand while balancing a cigarette with a large ash tipping off the end in the other. So each time we would go in to the store, we’d ask the cashier, “where is that lady from?” I wasn’t complaining, just curious. Turns out that we were not the only person that would ask that question. Seems as if most people that would pass by would say the same thing. On other errands to the nearby supermarket you could pretty much be assured that you see her out there. She dressed pretty well, noting that her clothes were cleaned and even pressed. Further investigation revealed that she was the manager of the nail salon three doors down from the pet food place in the sam strip mall.
Seeing as so many people would ask about the lady, the owner of the pet food store essentially gave her a “talking to” and let her know not to hang out in front of the store. Vietnamese lady was now ostracized, banished.
Before Jill actually saw her, I told her what I saw. Jill then told me from what she learned in yoga class about the health benefits of “squatting”

It’s good for your knees

It’s good for your back

It’s good for your hips

It’s good for your joints

You are supposed to be in the position for 5 minutes a day (for 6 years my daughter interjects)

So, Vietnamese lady might be on to something after all.

The real issue is the cultural divide between west and the real east. I say real east in that Vietnamese lady represents what is real from a different world rather that what we are presented neatly and distantly on television.

In asia squatting in public is not a unusual site. A childhood friend who traveled and lived in Bangkok said it was not unusual to see a businessman attired in a suit, squatting, and smoking a cigarette at the airport.

For some reason, the squat just never made it into western culture. The squat fell from grace with the invention of the chamber pot and the chair. The squat was banished from the occidental thus remaining separate.

As Americans we tend to be xenophobic, we fear that which is different. In this case I think our curiosity, xenophobia and hyper fear of those that smoke relegated Vietnamese lady to the back alley next to the supermarket dumpsters. In a small way it’s a shame.