Assuming you’ve been in Mexico for more than 15 minutes, you’ll have noticed how vital respect is. In all social situations respect is paramount. Even just a simple “Good Morning” should include the receiver’s occupation, like “Good Morning, Officer” to show your respect for their position.
Ninety percent of the time I find this custom soothing and admirable, but it can also get on my last nerve. I’ve a neighbor who frequently avails himself to the property of others without asking. When caught his M.O. is to stand in the middle of the street screaming at the top of his lungs he is not being treated with respect. I’ve no patience for that maneuver when he tries it on me and simply state he deserves no respect for trying to steal my ladder while I went inside for a moment to use the bathroom. He’s so baffled by my response he normally gambols off in a highly agitated state.
Then came Saturday morning and I realized, once again, I was wrong.
Every Saturday morning for over five years I’ve a picnic breakfast with my napkin selling sweetie. I met her my first time in the jardin and we’ve been swapping food and tales ever since. Currently her “spot” is the steps leading up to a grade school closed on the weekends.
While enjoying tamales and cinnamon buns I hear someone sweeping behind the door. Knowing sweeping is following by the movement of water, and being quick in a crisis, I fly up and gather our picnic supplies and her napkins for sale. Unfortunately my abuelita (little grandmother) is baffled by my behavior, and she doesn’t move so fast allowing the first wave of dirty water to dampen her dupa.
Suffice to say I’ve never seen her so peeved and she pounded on the door. Well, as much as she can pound at this stage of life. When the cleaner inside ignored her she went to the shop next door. Here the young salesperson apologized for her distress and told my pal the boss was next door.
She then pounded on that door until the woman answered. Keep in mind that with her infirmities from being hit by a car last fall she moves at a glacial pace and I am completely at a loss to understand where this situation is leading.
Like anyone that has witnessed their spouse lose their self control in public, or their toddler in the meltdown, I catch the eye of the woman and hope she gets my mental apology and she will not let a verbal torrent loose on the woman. She catches my eye and understands.
In my culture, my napkin selling grandmother has no reason to be angry. She doesn’t own the building and the owner has every right to clean the floors on a Saturday morning with no responsibility to see if she is sitting on the stoop.
This owner is extremely courteous and explains how there was a lot of traffic that week so her floors required a weekend cleaning. However, my sweetie can sit on her stoop as though she, too, is cleaning the floor she has a drain and won’t push the water under door.
My lady friend is mollified by this response but can’t really manipulate her body down to the stoop which is lower than she is use to. Just then a young painter working next door brings over a bucket of paint with a lid for her to sit on more easily. I am absolutely stunned!
To recap, we’ve now three people of various ages and genders actively helping my napkin seller get comfortable on the stoop of a building she and I sell napkins from every Saturday morning while having a picnic. Neither of us own the building, or pay rent or provide a commission on her five dollar handmade napkins. Yet she was treated with the respect normally reserved for a visiting queen.
I’ll never forget such courtesy, grace and respect afforded an ill, elderly woman. Ever.