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Control.

Last night I made a stop at the Amish baked good stand to pick up our weekly stash of homemade pies. I brought home a blackberry and an apple crisp pie. Both look delicious. I have sampled the apple crisp pie and I have to say that it lives up to my expectations.

I have a lot of respect for the Amish. They do their thing in their definition of life and they stick to their beliefs despite all the chaos going on around them. They live their lives the way that they choose to and while I might not agree with some of their beliefs (and they probably wouldn’t agree with many of mine), their adherence to their lifestyle is worthy of my respect. I think that there is a lot that we could learn from them.

The first time I stopped at their road side stand I ended the exchange with the young girl with a kind “Have a nice weekend!”. Her response was simple: “Yes.” The sound and tone of it wavered somewhere between Bea Arthur as Dorothy and Suzanne Plechette as Emily and she cast her eyes away from me. I smiled nervously and walked back to the car, where I promptly realized that perhaps the weekend did not carry the joyful significance for her as it did for me, so I filed this speculative thought away for future reference.

Last week when I stopped at the stand (blueberry and cherry), a different girl greeted me and her demeanor was a little more lively. The order came to $7.25, she gave me back $2.25 and then quickly corrected her mistake with a giggle and the right amount of change. I simply said “thank you.” Her response was a smile, but silence. She appeared to look over my right shoulder.

Last night we were back to the original girl and I slightly changed my approach by saying “have a nice night.”  Again, she responded with a simple “yes” with her eyes cast downward.

Quite frankly this is perplexing me.

I have a small worry about traveling outside of English-speaking countries. While I want to see the world and all that it offers, I don’t want to make the people in the country where I am a guest uncomfortable by being a typical American, because I don’t see myself as typical in any way. This concern of discomfort stems from my lack of language skills; I barely have command of the English language let alone any other sort of language. I guess that’s why I think of traveling to places like Canada, Ireland, Australia, Wichita, the Carolinas and the like; while I might sound a little funny in those places, I shouldn’t offend anyone with what I have to say because that common ground of English is present. I also feel kind of foolish because while we expect everyone else in the world to know their own language and a command of ours, the typical American only speaks our mangling of the English language.

I also don’t like the lack of control I think I have by not knowing what is being said around me. I live by the credo of “always be aware of your surroundings.” I listen to every conversation, I read body language of everyone around me, I know where the emergency exits are, even if they are in an aisle behind me and I tune into the vibe of any given space so I can use my chameleon skills to blend into the surroundings if necessary. I have control issues, I freely admit that, and when I don’t have control I am uncomfortable because I can’t control whether I’m making other people uncomfortable or not.

As I said earlier, I have a lot of respect for the Amish and I admire what they bring to our area. I also really like their pies and breads. And I don’t want to make them uncomfortable when we meet, even if it’s for less than two minutes.

Perhaps there isn’t a proper way to bring a transaction to an end aside from just saying “Thank you”. It could be that this young woman is quite comfortable with our little transaction and she is adhering to a custom that I am unaware of. The control freak in me says that I need to do some research online and get comfortable with the fact that I’m not overstepping any boundaries and if I am, I need to correct it.

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