I just had this interchange in a parking lot that left me shaking with rage. I was pulling out of a spot at Memorial Park and this woman backed into me. We re-parked and exchanged information and as she (and her mother, who was with her) kept talking, I found myself getting more and more upset. Instead of simply apologizing, they kept minimizing what happened, saying it’s nothing, that it’s happened many times to them and they’ve just let it go, it’s just stuff that happens in a parking lot. And it made me completely angry.
It took me a bit to calm down and figure out why I was so upset. After the fact, I was embarrassed that I was so visibly angry, voice trembling, on the verge of tears. I actually believe that turning the other cheek still applies, and I didn’t do that; I was a terrible witness. And in all honesty, it really was no big deal. She hit me at maybe 5 MPH max. I’m sure it did no real damage, maybe some scratching, but we have far worse self-inflicted scratches all over our bumper. I would have been fine letting it go.
But the way they talked to me incensed me. When I think about it, I think this comes down to one of those ways in which I’m more American than Asian. One thing that really bothers me about Asians is that they’re always bargaining. In English we frequently say “it is what it is.” I wonder if that saying exists in Asia. Because it seems like for Asians, everything is always up for bargaining; nothing is what it is. We frequently sell stuff on Craigslist and we’ve come to dread Asian immigrant buyers, because we know they’ll try to haggle like crazy and it makes the transaction so much more difficult. When we get emails from non-Asian names, we know they’ll likely take it or leave it at the price we name, instead of pointing out flaws in an effort to get a better price.
I don’t mean to single out any particular ethnicity; I think all Asians – south, east, wherever – do this. Including Koreans. Maybe especially Koreans. I love my people. I am my people. But I just don’t jive with that bargaining culture. I hate to say this, but I long ago decided that I preferred to not deal with Korean businesses (besides restaurants and dry cleaners). There’s just too much of that give and take. A friend of mine does design work and finds that working with Korean businesses is utterly exhausting. They ask for one thing and make promises and it’s always a bait and switch – oh, by the way, can you also do this? And that extra thing ends up being 80% of the work. Constant bargaining. The Asian way.
I don’t necessarily think it’s bad, the bargaining thing. It’s just not my culture. In this way, I’m an American. And what I realized is that this particular culture clash makes me feel cheapened or taken advantage of. I think that’s why most Americans hate the car-buying process – in this country, bargaining makes people feel somewhat used. I bet in other countries, where they haggle over everything, it’s no big deal.
In regards to this parking lot exchange, I felt like they were cheapening what I experienced, that they didn’t *really* hit me, or it wasn’t *really* their fault or it wasn’t *really* a big deal. All I wanted was for them to own up to it, just say, hey, I hit you, and I’m sorry about that, and that’s it, I would have moved on. Instead, it felt like they were trying to bargain away owning up to it, and that enraged me.
Perhaps that’s too much to ask for, especially living in Cupertino. I should let it go. I should have let it go in the parking lot. And I feel bad enough that I’m contemplating calling the woman to apologize for my anger. But eh, at this point, probably better to just move on.