In his book, Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind: Intercultural Cooperation and its Importance for Survival, the Dutchman Geert Hofstede suggests that our values are pretty much set in concrete by the time we’re ten years old. And we tend to assume these are the best values. They are not completely immutable and we can learn, but to sum the book up, it’s no wonder cultures and the people in them have problems with each other. As a USAer in Mexico, I am aware that all of us USAers bring blind spots in spite of our best intentions. How could we not? Unfortunately many of these blind spots lead to condescension. Fortunately at least some Mexicans are fully as capable of being condescending in return. That’s the New Yorker in me, this last sentence: the “give as good as you get” solution to problems. A week or so before Christmas, I was standing on line in the Xalapa Costco waiting to pay for my stuff as were a lot of other tired looking shoppers, their carts often filled to overflowing. A girl of about ten with an almost empty cart stood two people ahead of me Suddenly there was a parting of the seas to my right as a woman pushed her cart through the crowd, followed by a boy also pushing a cart, both overflowing. As if the abundance in the cart weren’t enough, the woman had a large expensive dog bed flopping over one arm. The girl moved to one side. The woman kissed her, clucking about how crowded the store was and how glad she was that she’d thought to have her daughter save her a place on line. By now, a lot of people stood behind me, too, so indeed she’d have had a good wait if she’d gotten at the end of it. Slim and expensively dressed in what I’d call cute-chic: form-fitting jeans, a red and white checked shirt, red and white checked high heels a perky hair style and tons of jewelry, she didn’t make it hard for me to decide she was rich. Now I have prejudices against people I assume are super-rich, especially when they wear a lot of obviously not fake gold. And my New York blood, its values coursing through it, boiled over. In New York, when I was growing up, breaking into a line like that, well, I can’t imagine anyone even TRYING to do it the way she did. The only way to successfully break into a line would have been to say something like I’ve got to get this medicine to my grandmother in five minutes or she’ll die. This isn’t to say people are mean: people with full carts often let a lonely soul with nothing but a container of milk in without even be asked to. But this woman was brazen. Our eyes locked. A long, loaded silence. I finally said, “I imagine you have a very important appointment so you had to break in.” “No,” she said. “I just found it convenient to have my daughter save me a space. “ A sort of smile. “Do you have a very important appointment? If you do, I can let you go ahead of me.” No. I said, but some of the people behind me might. We’ve all been waiting some time.” She shrugged and switched to English: elegant, correct English. “They don’t seem to have a problem. Why do you?” “It doesn’t seem fair,” I said somewhat lamely. She just kept smiling at me. Sort off smiling. “You think you are better than the rest of us, don’t you,” I asked. “What does it matter to you? As I said, if you are in a hurry, you can go ahead of me.” And then she was at the cash register, her back turned. End of conversation. No sign from anyone that anything odd had happened, none. The people on line remained enveloped in the world they were with. Frequently people shop in families, so I was actually odd being by myself. The cashiers were friendly and neutral when it was my turn. And I really wished I’d kept my mouth shut. On her way out, the woman turned, looked at me, smiled and waved. So what were people thinking, do you think?