He walked over to me, took the apples out of my hand, put them back on the stand and said, “un momento”. It was the first time I had walked into one these mini markets (verdureria). I noticed there were no plastic bags or baskets for me to put the fruit and vegetables in. How did this work? I figured, I would start by picking out some apples, walk over to the front to pay, surely the cashier would give me a bag and then I would know for next time. No such luck! I was so embarrassed, everyone just stopped and stared at me. My first thought was to leave, tell him he did not have to be so direct and go to a supermarket. What good would that do, I did not speak Spanish, he did not understand English. I would end up embarrassing myself more. I decided to stay and have fun with it. The ice was already broken, I succeeded in putting myself in the spotlight! I was the one who was new to this and the one who needed to adapt to their ways, not the other way around. Besides the fruit and vegetables here are of a much better quality than in the supermarket.
Once the store cleared out he came to see me. I started playing charades, acting out the motion of placing an apple in a bag. I had him laughing so hard, he realized that I was not from Buenos Aires, soon his wife joined us and she to was laughing. I couldn’t quite tell you exactly what they were saying but it looked like they were trying to make me feel comfortable, as if to say, “it’s ok”. I noticed he took a bag from the back of the counter and chose the apples for me. I immediately understood that it is not self service! I was suppose to wait to be served, tell him what I want and he would bag the fruits and vegetables for me. When I realized this, I couldn’t stop laughing at myself. I must of come off as someone who thinks I can do what I want wherever I go. I couldn’t stop apologizing for my behavior. He was not being rude, he was just caught in the middle of 2 customers, trying to let me know I would be next. Since it was unfamiliar to me, my first perception was that he was rude. They were, however, the most friendliest people. We all laughed together! As he picked the fruit and vegetables I pointed to, he named each one so that I would learn the Spanish name for them. They had a fruit there that I did not recognize. I asked “que es?”. They saw the confused look on my face, so, gave me 2 to try. It is incredible how much of a good time you can have by just letting yourself go, not worry about being silly and laugh at yourself.
Having the courage to do things that others consider silly, shows that you believe you can make it work. The ones who tell you that you are crazy, are just trying to stop you from being different and impose their beliefs on you. Be different, the only risk you are taking, is the risk of finding who you really are.
When you can laugh at yourself, your tension will immediately disappear. You accept your imperfections and of those around you. By not taking things personally, you live a more carefree life.
Had I gotten angry when I was told to wait and left the store, it would have ruined my day. It would have probably upset the owner of the store as well. By hanging around and waiting to see what he had to say, I ended up making new friends and having a new funny story to tell! I also left the store owner with his own funny story to tell!
In his book Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl portrays humor as being the best medicine for survival. He tells the story of when he was held prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp during War World II. The prisoners were regularly beaten and tortured. He describes how they found humor when taken to the showers and water started to run. “They made fun about each other and about themselves over their ridiculously naked bodies…” He used humor to make an uncomfortable and hopeless situation more bearable.
Remember the last time you laughed at yourself following an awkward or upsetting situation? How did it feel to able to laugh?
If you have not experienced this,try it! When you find yourself in a situation that would normally upset you, take on a different approach. Let yourself step outside of the situation. The next time you are walking, hurrying to get to work, all of a sudden a car drives right next to you in a puddle and you get splashed, LAUGH! I know what you are thinking, it is not funny! You are all wet and you have to go to work. It is true, it is not pleasant, but, you will dry off. So, get upset, but, then laugh. Admit it, if you saw this scene on TV, you would laugh, so, why can’t you laugh at yourself? Be comfortable with laughing at yourself, you will enjoy the new you!
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