Every year when I come back to the US, I have to relearn a bunch of stuff. I feel like an idiot because I know that I should remember how to do these things that I did for 40 years before moving abroad. But it’s surprising how quickly one forgets stuff that one does not do on a regular basis. Here are a few of the many:
1. My cell phone number. Every summer when I first get back to the US, I take my phone into an AT&T store and they put a new GoPhone card in my iPhone. The phone number that is attached to the GoPhone card changes from year to year. But my brilliant husband knows how to attach a Google number to the phone so that I don’t have to give friends and family a new number every summer. But inevitably, most people have erased my number from their phones, so I still have to give it to them. One would think that I could remember that blasted Google number from year to year, but I can’t. I have to relearn the stupid thing every summer. I can still remember my childhood phone number. I can still remember my friend Debbie’s childhood number. I can still remember my friend Kris’ childhood number. I can’t remember that Google number to save my life.
2. How to pump gas. Taiwan is the land of customer service. A regular Taiwanese Joe would never even consider pumping his own gas. That’s a job for the fools who hold degrees in liberal arts. As a result, I didn’t pump my own gas in 2.5 years. But in America, we proudly pump our own gas. Earlier this week, when I had to fill my gigantic American SUV, I stood paralyzed for a good 30 seconds as I stared at the gas pump. Then I lifted the nozzle and stood paralyzed for another 30 seconds. Then I put the nozzle back in the holder thingy and got my credit card out of my wallet and stood paralyzed while I stared at the credit card thingy for another 30 seconds. Then I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me and then I put my credit card in the credit card thingy, pulled it out and smiled at my brilliance. Then I had to ask my husband what octane of gas to use. Forgot that too.
3. How to swipe my credit card at the grocery store check out. This is the most embarrassing of the things I forget, because the cashier stands there staring at me and there is no where to hide. So the first time I have to swipe my card I end up standing there looking at the little machine thing, then at the cashier, then back to the machine thing. Then I sheepishly swipe my card. Then I give an embarrassed little laugh as I turn my card around because I have invariably swiped the wrong side. Then I forget that I have to sign the little machine thing and the cashier has to remind me.
4. Where things are. I forget how to get to the most ordinary places. Earlier this week I dropped my husband off at the chiropractor and then headed to the nearby Target store. I have been to that Target at least a hundred times. But after dropping my husband off, I honestly could not find it. I drove a total of sixteen blocks up and down the street looking for it. Fifteen minutes later I realized that I was on the wrong road. Then afterward, I couldn’t find my way back to my husband’s chiropractor. I had to call him and give him landmarks so he could talk my way back to him.
5. What things are called. I forget basic terms like PIN number, four wheel drive, carpool lane, water softener and crescent rolls. While writing this blog post I had to ask my 17 year-old what the person at the grocery store check-out is called. “That would be ‘cashier’ Mom.” I got a big “you’re such an idiot” eye roll for that one.
Luckily, after a few weeks in the States, I have generally relearned all these things. But for those first few weeks I know I look like a complete moron. See, in Asia I had an excuse for looking stupid. I was obviously a foreigner. I wasn’t supposed to know what things were called, where things were or how to use all their little contraptions. And the Taiwanese were always so kind to come to the aid of the gigantic white woman. But here I have no excuse. I just look stupid.
Maybe I should wear a sign around my neck that reads “Cut me some slack, I’ve been living on another planet for two years.”