Monday, May 10, 2010

Passive mumblers & grumblers

When I hopped on the bus the other day, every seat was taken but one, and even though there were people standing in the aisle (including elderly people who usually bum-rush all and any available seat), nobody attempted to claim it. I waited a few minutes, trying to figure what could possibly be wrong with that seat: Was there some sort of filth on it? Did the person in the neighboring seat smell? Nope and nope, so I went for it. As I was climbing over the lady in the neighboring seat she said to me: "You'll freeze in that seat, the AC vent is directly over it". I smiled back and said: "Not a problem for me, I love AC!" She looked at me as if I were crazy and then let me through. Thanks to the silly Italians and their delicate internal thermostats, I scored me a seat on a long bus ride. And between you & me, it was not freezing at all, it was rather pleasant and refreshing (and I was only wearing a T-shirt!) because it was hot out.
The Italians kept mumbling and grumbling about how cold it was, people with seats under the AC vents kept getting up and standing in the aisle instead. The bus was abuzz with complaints YET nobody did what I would consider the most logical thing to do in a situation like that: Ask the driver to lower or shut off the AC.
I sat back and watched with amusement as people got bent out of shape, complained out loud and to each other with such fervor. Then suddenly, a foreign woman who was wearing a turtleneck and sweater (hence, was obviously enjoying the AC) suggested these whiners go ask the driver to shut off the AC, since 95% of the people were complaining. One brave soul finally got up the nerve and did it. Lo and behold- the driver shut off the AC! Cue: collective sigh of relief from the Italians.

I can't understand why, for the most part, Italians are so passive. If something is bothering you (and a majority of people) WHY NOT take action to improve the situation, especially when it could be so easily improved? Why just sit there and complain?

In all my years here, I've noticed that Italians are Olympic gold medalists at complaining (loudly, rowdily, individually, or in groups) but rarely do they actually voice their beef with someone in charge or even take the simple steps necessary to resolve the situation. WHY IS THAT? Is there some cultural hang-up about being proactive or confrontational? Is it considered inappropriate to speak up? I've noticed this in old & young alike, even some of my friends have this tendency. It seems ridiculous to me, why bother using so much energy to complain instead of simply using that same energy to fix what's wrong? I'm not saying people have to be aggressive and demanding, I'm just saying that 90% of the time, situations like the one I just mentioned could be easily resolved by speaking up. It blows my mind to be surrounded by a nation of people who will stew in their indignation, will get worked up about it, but are too passive to speak up or stand up to make a real change.


Ikabod Grinwud said...

Maybe there's a sign somewhere that says "Don't talk to the driver while it's running"?
Or folks are in a habit of just venting out their frustrations by complaining among themselves on what seems to be petty things to them. It's like a veni, vidi, queri thing.

Romerican said...

There is a sign but that doesn't stop them from asking for directions, info, etc. so I doubt that's the reason.

These folks were really worked up, judging by the anger and fervor that was brewing, I'd say they certainly didn't consider this to be a "petty" thing. They were genuinely bothered by the cold air but I guess it never occurred to them that they could do something to change the temperature.

Anonymous said...

I was complaining about this to my friend the other day. I would so much prefer if they just told you straight but there seems to be a cultural block about straight talking here - unless you are arguing which is usually when things are more difficult to resolve!

Romerican said...

Anon- Yeah! It seems there are two extremes: either they grin and bear it (more like grumble and bear it) or they explode and have screaming matches, there's rarely a middle ground.

Anonymous said...

So true, Romerican! I like the itis but I find them exhausting because of their lack of clarity. I am reading a very interesting book called The Italians at the moment which puts this down to living in an insecure society which feeds off alliances - basically you keep your cards close to your chest. I'm Irish/English- the English side of me gets pretty frustrated sometimes!! Nice to know someone else is experiencing the same things!!

Michael M. Richardson said...

When I moved to NYC from Ireland in 1994 I had to make a cultural shift when it came to complaining.
Irish people rarely complain to management in restaurants or stores but will tell everyone about their bad expeience.In New York people complain readily if they have an issue.
I work in food service and discovered you are so much better off with a customer who actually complains than with someone who has a bad experience and gives you no oppurtunity to fix the issue. This is particularly true in the age of web when people can vent to the world about a negative experience.

Ikabod Grinwud said...

"...are so much better off with a customer who actually complains than with someone who has a bad experience and gives you no oppurtunity to fix the issue. This is particularly true in the age of web when people can vent to the world about a negative experience."
Right, I too did complain or vent my frustration through the web several times. That's because I was up against big establishments lording over all who thinks individuals like me are just mere mortals not worth the time to contend with.
In fastfood restaurants I find it always good to tell whatever is wrong to the server. But always with respect. If is a minor thing like a missing fork I would be getting it myself from the counter.