Taken for granted

It's amazing the things one takes for granted.

Take something as simple as showing numerals using your fingers ... If you wanted to say that you have 3 thingamagies, which fingers do you hold up? In North America, one shows the three middle fingers of one's hand, with the thumb and little finger forming an "o".  In France, they show the thumb and two fingers. If you're not prepared for this, you immediately discount the left-most finger and think that you're being shown just two fingers. Our first hotel in France, therefore, I thought we were on the third floor (I'd turned away and only heard the clerk say "trois") but my wife who'd been facing the clerk and had seen him sign thought we were on the second floor of the hotel.

Meeting an older couple in Chennai (India), the other day, we were regaled to the best new thing that had happened in the city. It was a new library that had been built by the state government.  It was very clean. There were security people everywhere enforcing silence and no food. There were books from all over the world, even expensive foreign books. They had a computerized catalog, so you didn't have to actually search the shelves. The building was all air-conditioned and had nice, large glass windows that looked out onto the street.  No, you couldn't borrow books, but the selection was awesome. I totally had to take the kids to go see it. They didn't realize it of course, but they could have been talking about a public library anywhere in the USA ... except that you would get to borrow books, have community meetings, get children's programs and author talks and even have a pretty good e-book selection to boot.  The next time I go to our public library, I will try to look at it through the eyes of that couple.

We were in an autorickshaw (tuk-tuk) when the driver realized that his route had been blocked by construction. As in completely blocked. "These corporation guys should put up a sign or something," he groused, "before they start to scratch the roads."  The word that I loosely translated as scratch (நோண்டு) is a word more commonly used to refer to pulling boogers out of noses, so his grouch was pretty funny. I tittered, and he thought I was laughing at the very idea. "They could, you know," he suggested tentatively, "they could put up a sign at the corner just before the street saying that you shouldn't go on, that the street is blocked. They could. It would be a lot of signs, but they are spending a lot of money to dig up that street, and one small sign won't cost much and it would save people like me a lot of petrol."  I didn't have the heart to tell him that his idea was not far-fetched at all.

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