It's funny how one thought leads to another and before long you're thinking completely unrelated thoughts.
This morning in the wee hours, I was thinking about an avocado. Specifically, how I would like to eat an avocado, right then, perhaps with a bit of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. I was reminded of my first job, where I made very little money but at the sandwich shop across the road I could get a huge salad roll for $5. And they were very generous with the avocado.
Then I remembered the time I was waiting patiently to order my $5 sandwich and standing about a foot from the counter. Before I realised it, this young Asian student (there were a few Learn English colleges on the street) squeezed in front of me and placed his order. I gaped silently at his back, overwhelmed by his rudeness. What I should have done was bark shrilly and send him back to the line. Because of course, he didn't think he was pushing in, he just saw a vast tract of space at the counter and went to order his meal.
Different cultures, different concepts of space.
Having lived in Vietnam, I would have no compunction now in telling someone to get back in line! This is my spot! No anger required but a little drama is expected, perhaps a tossing of the head or a jerking of the thumb. Just for emphasis.
As you do regularly at Hanoi Airport, for example, where 'lines' at the counter resemble hyenas jostling for a bite. No matter how close you think you are to the front of the line, someone will always try to push their trolley in front of you. Sometimes they'll just stand next to you at the check in counter as that's the safest bet.
Which also occurs at the bank I used in Hanoi. A man appears next to me, watches my financial transactions with interest, his own cheque book in hand. I have to gesture to him to go back in the line and off he'd go. Whoever had more conviction usually won the battle.
But of course, the concept of crowds and personal space takes on a new meaning when you're used to this...
And that's just regular peak hour traffic in Hanoi.
But truly, if you ever do visit Hanoi, there is one place you must avoid. I'm not talking about the bear bile farms near Halong Bay or the dime-a-dozen brothels on every other corner (though please steer clear of those too). But if you value your sanity, avoid METRO. This German-owned supermarket is an Aldi-style affair, where you can buy discounted items in bulk. It's a novel concept for Hanoians.
But don't be tempted! The staff are rude, they only take cash and you will publicly mocked for bringing your own recycled shopping bags. But of course, the piece de resistance are the checkout lines. Do not try this alone. One person wields a swinging bat to keep marauding trolleys and would-be queue-jumpers sneaking in from all directions. The other fends off shopping items thrown in front of your items on the conveyor belt by throwing them back at their owners. Do not pause for breath or pity for the sweet-looking granma on the left. She's likely only a front for that pushy family three trolleys back.
Finally, you emerge, exhausted but triumphant, carting your six-pack of star-shaped ice cube trays and squashed leg of imported Aussie lamb.
And that's where my avocado thoughts end.