When cultural adaptation backfires

While walking back from the city center, I ran into Sandro talking to a guy on a bike, about four blocks from home. In no hurry, and feeling it would be rude to just say “hi” and breeze on by – especially since Sandro was obviously going home as well; he was carrying bags from the nearby supermarket – I decided to stop and chat, patting myself on the back for choosing the chill-and-friendly Brazilian option instead of the time-obsessed-American-living-and-dying-by-the-clock-with-no-time-for-people option.

MISTAKE. I was stuck there for an HOUR. And it wasn’t an interesting conversation. Actually, it wasn’t even a conversation – more like a monologue on the part of Sandro’s friend (whose name I forgot because of the mind-numbing hour of boredom). The guy just would not stop talking. Unfortunately the subject was health/physical fitness, which is his profession/obsession – he’s a triathlete, doctoral student in physiology, and aspires to be a triathlon coach – and he just went on… and on… and on…

Around the half-hour mark, I started sending signals – looking around distractedly, glancing pointedly at my watch, hoping that Sir Blabbermouth would pick up on them and say, “Ok, I’ll let you guys go.” No luck. It stunk because I didn’t have any legitimate excuse to leave, any previous commitment, so I would have to make something up… and if I was actually involved in the conversation, then I could finesse it around to a close, but I felt awkward butting into his monologue just to say, “hey I’ve gotta get going.”

I tuned out of his verbal diarrhea and focused my efforts on telepathically communicating my desperation to Sandro, who was starting to look cross-eyed as well (after all, he’d been trapped longer than me). Finally, Sandro managed to get a word in edgewise: “Well, it’s been nice chatting, but we should go; dinner’s waiting for us at home.” Handshakes, kisses, and we were free.

As soon as Sandro and I got out of his hearing range, I asked, “So, who’s cooking dinner at home?”

“No one,” he sighed, holding up the bags from the supermarket. “I think the chicken defrosted.”

Sometimes I should follow my American instincts :-p