Thanksgiving with my boss: cultural character building
The last several Thanksgivings I survived have been “experiences.” Not necessarily in the same way that action movies are “the thrill-ride adrenaline-soaked experience of the summer.” They’re more like those internships where you don’t get paid but they are a “good experience for your resume.”
Over the last five years I have celebrated Thanksgiving in Guatemala, in Ohio (home), Las Vegas, the Tropicana apartments and most recently at the home of my Chinese boss. Allow me to recap some of the highlights. The last T-day that I had with my own family in Ohio, I was reminded that holidays are to the older generation of my family what the relationship status on Facebook is to our generation.
During that heartwarming family gathering, one of my great aunts took the time to point out to my sister and me that yet another of my cousins had gotten engaged. She then asked why we didn’t bring any dates. She went on to explain that she wanted to see that happen before she died, and then reminded us that she was very old, so we should hurry up. Talk about pressure.
This past week, I was unable to fly back home for T-day. I had been invited by a friend to go to San Francisco with him. But then my boss at work informed me I was not allowed to take any days off during the week of Thanksgiving. However, since I no longer had any plans for the big day, he wanted to know if I would join him for Thanksgiving Day. Just as a little background info, my boss is Chinese. His wife, who I also work with, is ethnic Chinese from Malaysia. Her Malaysian mother and nieces would be joining us as well.
The evening went a little like this: I introduced myself to everyone who spoke English and nodded and smiled at those who didn’t for at least five minutes. After about an hour, we sat down to a dinner of duck, green beans and fish, and rice and fish. Also, there was just plain fish. All of which was to be consumed via chopsticks.
My boss’ wife had me tell everyone the story about the drunk guy that I picked up off the side of road. I gave it my best shot, but the Chinese are a tough nut to crack when telling stories about random experiences. So when that story wasn’t greeted with the riotous laughter like she expected, she told me to tell everyone the story about the time my mom woke me up at 6 a.m. and asked me what I was doing. Since that is pretty much the whole story, this one didn’t exactly knock ’em dead either.
Once dinner was over (about three hours after I had arrived), I stood up to clear away my dishes. As I stood up, I realized that my zipper was down … and gaping. Since it happened to be eye level with everyone sitting directly across the table, I chose not to adjust it there but to wait until I could go to the bathroom and fix myself as well as to cry a little bit.
But, I’ve been told that all of this is a good thing, that I am building oodles of cultural awareness. I just wish that other cultures wouldn’t have to be made aware of when my fly was down. Overall though, it was a good Thanksgiving. I’m just disappointed that they didn’t have any fortune cookies.