Who Goes first?
On May 6th, my mother and I arrived at the Boston Logan International Airport. In my memory, the picture is still very clear. On that day it was raining and the temperature was much lower than it was in Shanghai where I was born and lived for 17 years. Suddenly I shivered when a cold wind passed by, but I knew the wind actually came from my heart. Leaving from my homeland, I believed the connections with my friends, the cares of my family and the help of the strangers would be lost. It is the first time that I came to the United States and everything was new to me, such as the old style buildings, the empty square, the quiet community and even the weather. After I was out of the plane, contrary to what I expected, no one welcomed the arrival of tourists. It seemed that Americans were in their own world neglecting the surroundings. My mother and I had to find the right exit without any help from Americans. Therefore, in my mind, “indifference and impoliteness” represent the United States.
In the evening, the friends of my mother, my mother and I had dinner in a buffet restaurant. There were also Chinese people who had been the owners of the restaurants for almost 12 years, so they, as the hosts, met us gladly. After finding a table, I was asked to get some food which I wanted to eat. As a teenager, I was so curious focusing on looking for delicious foods that I ignored the people around me. When I was trying to get some chicken wings, an American wanted to do it at the same time. However, I was so scared after I looked at him carefully. He was muscular and had a whole body tattoo. On this occasion, it made me think of a scene in American movies where the strong man with a gun shoots the strangers. I thought I should let him get the chicken wings first. I cannot do anything. I have to wait. I will be shot if I take the chicken wings before him. He will easily lose his temper. But what happened next made me surprised. He just smiled at me and said: “You can take it first. Have a good dinner!” I just did not notice what really happened. Though his word was a simple greeting, it started to warm my heart. Holding my plate, I supposed the United States was not as impersonal as I imagined.
In the early morning of the next day, I went to the shop to buy some daily necessities. When I found there were no cars on the road, I crossed the street recklessly without minding the flashing traffic light. Unfortunately, at that moment a car drove up. The only thing I could do at that time was staying still. In several seconds, I was thinking that cars should be the first to go before pedestrians and I was very afraid that the driver would shout at me angrily, the Chinese driver would do that, if I crossed the road illegally. To my surprise, the driver stopped his car two meters beside me and waved his hand which showed me to cross the street first. More importantly, he waited with a smile, with patience. The totally different behaviors between the Chinese drivers and the American drivers influenced me deeply in my following life. Such a sweet smile communicated the genial warmth, which has melted the coldness in my heart. In addition, I promised myself that I should obey the traffic rules. And since then, I have changed my opinion. It is Americans that are friendly and considerate.
To tell you the truth, more short stories happened during my first days in the United Stated. However, what I emphasize here is all about politeness. Now I clearly have a new appreciation of politeness from the Americans. From my personal perspective, learning how to be polite is one of the most significant things in our lives. To some degree, I have taken a lesson for my daily life. When approaching a door, even though others who may be approaching the door are far from them, I will keep the door open and wait for the people behind to enter.
The coldness in my heart has disappeared and has been replaced by the hotness now. Contradicting my original expectations that America is an indifferent country, I receive countless warmth in this country. I feel lucky that I came here.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.