We were on our way to a convention in DallasTexas in 1980, and could scarcely believe we’d arrived in the USA at last. Our employers had spent a great deal to purchase tickets, and there was a large element of personal investment involved in our being on this trip. We now had to live and travel in this vast country for several weeks, and the level of spending was certainly higher than our earning capacity in India.
We were aware we presented an interesting spectacle to people passing by. Clothing was not average run of the mill American, our accents labeled us as foreigners, and ignorance of cultural norms must have amused citizens we came in contact with on the journey. But we’d managed to tour the city of London for the first time without major catastrophe, and were now in the process of limping our way toward Dallas on a greyhound bus. We were reasonably confident of avoiding any serious embarrassment.
How well I remember discussions we had as we compared notes on where to buy the cheapest food, and how to avoid further embarrassment individuals had suffered on the journey. Each individual had adjustments to make, and it was enlightening to see what value people placed on the most trivial things during those initial days in the USA. Some accumulated cheap curios from bus stops as the bus moved south. These trinkets would adorn houses when the tour group returned home, and would remind for years to come of that trip.
One of the group purchased post cards with views of the city at each rest stop. You would see him writing diligently as we traveled, and at each stop he’d remove stamps from sheets he’d purchased at the start of the journey and look for a mail box. As we neared the end of the journey waves of uncontrollable mirth passed around the bus and we asked the reason. At first our fellow travelers were reluctant to tell us. We were the only non-Indians on the bus so there remained some barriers between us even though we’d been in India for twenty years. They wanted to protect the one concerned from those who were not “sons of the soil.” But eventually they decided to trust us and it all came out.
It appeared our friend with the post cards had imagined every metal box on the street with a pull back lid was a mail box, and he’d just been made aware only those with a particular color and markings were for mail. The rest were trash cans, and that’s where most of his letters had been deposited during the course of our trip. Trash-collectors must have wondered at stamped throw away mail they found. Tourists make foolish mistakes in any country unless they’re unusually lucky people.
But that set me to thinking. How often do we lose out on things in life which have cost us effort and expense because of a careless attitude in preparation, and failure to concentrate on things that need our careful attention?
Hmm! Good thought. I’d better add that to my list of things to be on guard against.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2013 All rights reserved”
The picture above is copyright to Wikipedia