Thursday, October 28, 2010


I am concerned for my housemate. She is from China and she doesn't navigate things very well. Today I had to go to the courthouse and we happened to be leaving the house (me by car and her on foot to the bus stop) at the same time so I offered her a ride. When we were on the part of highway 1 that goes through santa cruz, she asked if we were downtown and I said no. Then when we got to downtown I asked if she could walk from the end of downtown to the metro center and she said yes, if she knew the street name, so I told her, and asked if she could walk to the metro center and she said yes, if she knew what direction it was so I told her and then I checked whether she could walk to the metro center and she said yes, it would just take her some time to figure it out. I didn't want to strand her and it wasn't very far (I'd just wanted to avoid the one way streets) so I drove her there, and when the metro center was in sight she was relieved and told me that she knew where she was. I let her out at a red light, but she had a lot of bags that she gathered while thanking me and talking to me about the confusing streets, and then the light turned green but I waited, and she got out and stood with my door open thanking me, and I said goodbye and she thanked me again and then finally I could go.

As I drove away I tried to figure out why it didn't matter to her that the light was green. And I realized that people started teaching me the red=stop/green=go binary 12 or 13 years before I was ever expected to drive anywhere.
There was Sesame Street. There was the rule following race game Red light, Green light, which has no lights and no colors, but the concept of red or green dictates what the players can do. And in first grade there was a multi pocketed wall hanging where each student had 3 cards. At the start of the day everyone had a red card in back, a yellow card in the middle, and a green card displayed in front. The green card would get shuffled to the back if you did anything wrong, meaning you had a yellow warning, and if you did another thing wrong the yellow card got moved to the back also and you got a red card phone call home.

That green means go is not something I think about, but it's extremely deeply ingrained. I don't want to ever patronize Xiaona but I want to help and she seemed interested in the idea of walking around downtown with me, getting her bearings.

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