Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Bad Lady! (by Steph @ The Red Clay Diaries)

When I first decided to invite other bloggers to guest post here on Hey Look a Chicken, I began with my friends and cohorts from The Fellowship of the Traveling Smartypants, which I started because I had this great idea that a few of us would take turns guest posting on each other's blogs, but that got complicated with scheduling and I'm pretty sure math was involved. How did I make the jump from rotating guest posts to a blog about nothing? I don't know. But that's not important right now...

To date, many of my friends have written guest posts for me already. Some more than one. But Steph, going to great lengths to prove that I am NOT the boss of her, has waited until now to send me a guest post. Was it worth waiting for? I think so, yes. But how could you go wrong with someone who writes a blog post entitled Beware the Ass Clown? I'm sure you see my point. Here's her Oh-so-fancy and official Bio:

Writer, wife, traveler, mom, blogger, humorist, editor, Spanish-speaker, social media admin for John C Maxwell (@johncmaxwell).

And now, after the longest intro in the history of HLAC, here's Steph:

“You bad lady! Let us do living!”

His voice carried from the front door of the bus as I made my way back to my seat. I don’t know why he was complaining. It’s not like I did what I wanted to: yank that whistle out of his mouth and ram it up his nose.

All I did was shoulder my way between him and his mark.

You know, I really like foreign travel. And I don’t think I’m an Ugly American. I don’t whine at the lack of cheeseburgers in kosher restaurants. I resist the impulse to wander in large groups down the middle of crowded sidewalks. I LIKE foreign languages and I KNOW how hard it is to learn one, so I never make fun of nationals’ attempts to speak English to me.

See? I’m mostly a delight. But I really can’t help it if I react badly to two groups of people encountered by tourists in some countries: street vendors and lechers.

Maybe it was my first visit to Mexico City. Or more specifically, my first ride on the subway there. To get even more specific, it was my first …um… contact with the local populace.

Without going into graphic detail, I’ll just say that Mexico City is the first city I’d ever heard of to have (and need) women-only subway cars during rush hour. After that first ride, I developed the following strategies for travel as a woman on (unisex) subway trains:

  1. Stand in a group, whenever possible. With all the females in the center, surrounded by the guys. Kind of like how water buffalo protect their young from hyenas.
  2. Failing #1, always find a wall. And stand against it. Facing the rest of the train. With arms crossed and a vicious look in your eye.
  3. When entering or exiting trains (or really walking through any crowded area), pay attention to your immediate surroundings. And carry a backpack, slung low. Swinging it violently and unpredictably.
  4. If contact is made, don’t even try to guess where it came from. Your stinkeye will be answered by leering – but blank – stares from each of the 15 men pressed up against you by the crowd.
By the end of six weeks there, I had the stinkeye and wall strategy down. And on my final train ride, I knew I’d perfected the backpack swing when the guy I “accidentally” hit actually said “OOF!” and stumbled backward.

My strategy for dealing with street vendors came out of a less violating experience. Unless you count being “taken” for a sarape as a violation.

(I didn’t actually ever buy a sarape. I just like saying it. SARAPE.)

Charging tourists double seems to be the locals’ entertainment in those souvenir markets. And it annoys me. What annoys me more is when they take advantage of Westerners’ general openness. Make eye contact and they descend like vultures.

So on that day in Israel when Whistle Man shoved a pennywhistle (that he was selling for MUCH MORE than a penny) under the nose of the nice older lady in our group, and she looked him in they eye, smiled sweetly, and said, “No, thank you,” I knew it was…

My Time to Shine.

With a mighty leap, I caught up. She was shuffling a little faster toward the bus, still smiling apologetically.

“Tweedle-eedle-eedle!” he blew the whistle in her ear. “Only ten shekels! You want for your kids?! They like! See? I have beads too! Three string for twenty shekels! Is good deal!”

It was after I elbowed him in the ribs, got between them, and said NO in his face with my best vicious expression that he called me a Bad Lady. But he let my sweet friend scramble onto the bus.

Personally, I think Mr. Whistle should be grateful that I wasn’t carrying a backpack.

Just sayin.


To read more from Stephanie Wetzel, visit her at The Red Clay Diaries and be one of her thousands of adoring followers on the twitter at @redclaydiaries.


Helen said...

Thanks for the warning, Steph. I never had to deal with street vendors before. I'd probably try to be nice, too.

Shark Bait said...

You bad lady!

We like!

Just sayin.

Glynn said...

Kathy - you left one item out of Steph's bio -- she's smart. She married a guy from New Orleans.

Great story, Steph. Started my day with a laugh.

Candy said...

Oh how I've missed you, Steph!

And isn't "sarape" a Mexican Snuggie?

Steph @Red Clay Diaries said...

Thanks for all the nice comments!

Helen, I'm glad I could influence you to become a bad lady like me. ;)

Shark Bait, I glad you like!

Glynn, I miss my New Orleans guy. My cooking pales in comparison to his. Can't wait till he gets home.

Candy, OMGoogle! You're right! THAT'S why I love sarapes so much. Now I actually want to go get one.

And Kathy, Thank you for my big giant head. Just sayin.

Sandra Heska King said...

I'm not travelin' nowhere unless you come with me! Bad Lady for hire?

Sarah Salter said...

Oh, Steph, you and I would travel together just fine! In fact, maybe we should go into business guiding clueless people in third world countries...

This past summer, I led a medical team in the Dominican Republic. On my team, there were several lovely teenage girls. And so at the end of the week when we took them to the historic district to shop, we gave them clear, strong warnings to stay with the group, hold their purses close to their bodies, to be aware of their surroundings, etc. But from the minute we stepped off the bus, I could see that they hadn't heard a word of the warning. Their rich-American-girl purses swung carelessly from their shoulders, inviting razor-bearing snatchers to come take them. And they dawdled at shop windows, mindless of the where the rest of the team was.

And then, it happened...

I looked up just in time to see one of the girls wander a little too far away from the group and find herself surrounded by pressing men on the sidewalk. I marched out there to retrieve her with a stinkeye that would have melted them if they hadn't quickly scattered.

And the sad thing? She never did understand that she could have easily been the next Natalee Hollaway.

I tell ya, Steph, some people just shouldn't be allowed to travel.

Pam said...

Now I am looking forward to my June cruise more than ever, as I will have several opportunities to practice these techniques. Thank you for all the pointers!

M.L. Gallagher said...

Great story! And I'm smiling too.

Bad lady -- Great advice too!

bman said...

hahahah. Awesome.

Marni said...

And all this time, I thought Katdish was the one who would "cut people". I stand corrected. Wanna go on our trip to Disneyworld with us? Your skills could come in handy on some of the ride lines.

Billy Coffey said...

And people wonder why I never leave Virginia. But it's nice that you can spread a little of that rural redneck hospitality on an international scale. If I ever do need to travel, I'm calling you, Steph. I might need the muscle.

Cassandra Frear said...

I want to travel, but after reading this... Maybe I want to re-think that.

Steph @Red Clay Diaries said...

For those who are wondering, I AM available as Bad Lady for Hire. If it means free travel, I am all over it.

And Marni, I don't have to cut people. My stinkeye is as sharp and deadly as any knife.

I'm sure I'd fit right in at Disney.

Maureen said...

Have you ever been on the subway in Rome? The subway system there is wonderful but for the creeps who have nothing better to do than to ride it all day in the hopes of an encounter of the close kind, even with your body enwrapped with defense tools. My sister and I wised up quite quickly, especially after my sister's expensive sunglasses were stolen from her face, without her realizing she'd been touched. It also helped that I had learned enough Italian to not-so-politely exclaim "Get lost!" I know how to use a few very good phrases in Spanish, too.

Wendy said...

Steph - Okay, but do you hire yourself out for the malls at Christmastime?

Kathleen said...

Curious, does any shape or SIZE of backside need guarded this way? Cuz if anything will do, I might need to take a trip.

Graceful said...

Oh my gosh, I am cracking up. Cracking up! You have a way with humor and words, Steph!

~*Michelle*~ said...

Oh my gosh....what a great laugh, that was much needed today!

jasonS said...

It is amazing how different the vendors are in some of these marketplaces. You can't look up unless you're ready to be accosted! You are one bad lady. Thanks for the story, Steph. :)

♥ Kathy said...

You are totally a BAD LADY Steph! I'm taking you with me if I EVER get to go on vacation!

Duane Scott said...

One word:


You figure out how this pertains to me reading this awesome post. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd hire you. I find myself trying to pass by and not make eye contact... then they send those cute little kids to try and get to me. I need the Bad Lady to teach me the moves.

Jake said...

For some reason, it feels good to have a justifiable reason to be rude to people. I love traveling, too! I didn't encounter any of that in Amsterdam, but in Kenya, they were vultures who really would argue and get super-pissed if you argued back. Oh well, I'll buy it somewhere else, BUDDY.