Thursday, March 13, 2014
That Small Feeling
A number of years ago I was crossing the lobby in a fancy hotel in Cairo, Egypt, to see if our reservation was ready. It had been a rough airplane trip, a hot and sticky and dusty cab ride and I was already feeling jet lag. I had almost approached the check-in desk with my last bit of energy when two tall men in white thobes covered by the traditional bisht trimmed in gold moved in front of me only inches from my face and called the clerk over. They made no apology or even gave recognition that someone, a woman - me, had been brushed aside by their rude behavior. They completely turned their broad backs to my face and began the check-in process. I could have given them the benefit of the doubt, except I have been given the impression that Saudi men treat women as a much lower class and make all kinds of pretend excuses for the way the culture makes women behave and dress. Clearly I was a level lower than their well-dressed women in my Western dress. They wore shiny large watches and talked in firm voices and did not once look my way as they walked away to the elevators. I could have been a potted plant. They really did not see me! How can you be rude to a potted plant?
A few years later my husband and I had been invited to a reception in the South Pacific to celebrate the completion of a large bridge. There were drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Hubby and I had our brief chat with one of the high chiefs and every single time I made a comment during the conversation I was totally ignored while the Chief turned to my husband to talk. The third time that this happened I walked away and got more wine and perused the table until hubby was done.
A few years later my daughter and I had just finished a special tour of the catacombs and St. Peter's resting place beneath the Vatican (my daughter's MIL is Catholic and this tour was for her). Once again I was tired from having been in an area with little oxygen and listening to rather dry history and having to stand for over an hour in close quarters. We had walked up stairs into one of the many alcoves of St Peters church, and I was just turning to view but one more tomb of one more saint when two Cardinals dressed in crisp black robes and blood red sashes and red head cover walked right in front of me at a deliberate and slow saunter. ONCE AGAIN I had become the potted plant. The area was not filled with tourists and there was plenty of room for them to move away from me. They walked so closely I lost my balance for just an instant and felt the robe of one against my ankle. Not once did they apologize or act as if they had seen me. They were deeply involved in some miraculous thought I am guessing, and when you are planning miracles how can you bother with a low level tourist. If I had been Catholic I might have been forgiving and even a little honored, but because I have long had black issues with this church, I just frowned and turned away looking for fresh air and less gilded stuff.
I could list other times like this happening at work or at meetings. I am a women and for some reason on this planet the other gender does try to keep us feeling small. Well, times are changing all over, if ever so slowly both by men and women to a fairer world.