Friday, January 23, 2009

Down With Box Springs!; Reading Facial Expressions

First, the mattresses:
This is such a good idea, I don't know why it hasn't migrated to the States--
In a number of the hotels I've stayed in, the bed is built right into the floor. It is a tiled concrete platform that comes right out of the floor, up to--duh--bed height. Then on the flat concrete surface the hotel mgt. puts a relatively cushy mattress. Saves on buying box springs, you only need the mattress. And in my mind, the best part: never any dust bunnies under the bed! Too cool for words!

Second, facial expressions:
I realized this morning that most facial expressions are cross-cultural. That is, pretty much the same wherever you go. A sunny smile will get you the same right back at 'ya anywhere in Mexico. When people are sad or depressed here, same as at home, the brow furrows and the edges of the mouth turn down.

Today, I recognized a new expression, albeit very subtle: consternation.
When I speak Spanish, I speak it with an American accent. And, while I am fluent, I still make some grammatical and syntax mistakes (probably always will, not being a native speaker). So I noticed a lady clerk at the pharmacy slightly grimace as I asked her a question. She completely understood what I was asking, but it just wasn't filtering through her brain's computer as "sounds like what I always hear." Perhaps she had to apply a bit of interpretation to understand my accent or mistakes.

The facial expression was like what we do when we hear fingernails on a chalkboard. Kind of a non-verbal, "ouch!" And I wondered if we don't do the same thing at home when we have an encounter with a non-English speaker. "What?" "What are you saying?" "I don't understand. Don't you speak English?" Same sort of thing.

It's made me a little more sensitive to my own interpersonal reactions as reflected in facial expression. As an old ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I've pretty much heard English phrases chopped up in every way, in every accent possible. I've learned it's better to try a bit harder to understand. That old saying about "walk a mile in the other guy's moccasins" rings true to me today.