I’ve always been the kind of person who valued individuality and nonconformity, just like every other single person my age.
And just like every other single person my age, I would cry tears into my Pabst Blue Ribbon every time I read yet another story about public schools making bland uniforms mandatory and studies touting the decline of creativity among Americans ages two months to 112.
But there’s nothing like a trip to a foreign country to make you see your own country in a different light. And after nine days spent in beautiful Panama, I have come to the conclusion that conformity is good. Mindlessly obeying the rules is good. And most importantly, having a healthy fear of dying is good.
Because if you don’t have those things as a society, chaos ensues and tourists run the risk of regularly crapping their pants in public.
For example, Boston is known as a city where driving on your morning commute is a scene straight out of “Death Race.” Ha! What wimps we are! Because as bad and aggressive as Bostonian drivers might be in our minds, it’s nothing compared to Panama, where road signs and even traffic lanes are at best mere suggestions and at worst meaningless symbols. Not to mention, the supposed universal law that states two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time does not exist in this country. Drivers, specifically cab drivers (who have the same regard for the sanctity of human life as the aliens from “Independence Day” did) will merge into your lane whether you are already there or not and if they run into an obstacle, such as your car, they will simply reach out their car window and bang on your vehicle with their hand (because they ARE close enough to do that…hell, they’re close enough to count your nose hairs) out of frustration.
Granted, it’s not completely the native drivers’ fault for the chaos on the roads. The engineers who laid out the roads can take a good chunk of the blame. Check out this painting of an actual map of an area up in the mountains where I stayed:
Notice anything? Here, let me give you a closer look:
And even this wouldn’t be that bad if you weren’t driving in an area that required a sign like this:
Another area where conformity comes in handy is in the art of standing in line. See, Americans, as a whole, are excellent at forming lines. In fact, we EXCEL at forming lines and this is because we place an emphasis on the importance of forming lines from a very early age. Hell, pre-schoolers marching through the halls of any of your standard preschool institutions can rival the lines formed by a lesser country’s military.
And this skill is mainly due to the fact we place line jumpers in the same axis of evil as child molesters, terrorists and Kardashians. We HATE line jumpers. If you even THINK of line jumping, if you DARE to slow down even just a little bit while walking beside an already formed line, if you slowly start to EDGE a little too close to the person in front of you, the entire line will turn on you, frothing at the mouth and ready to draw blood.
Now, some people (re: foreigners) may think our strict line standing rules and regulations are silly but I’m here to tell you people they emphatically are not. I have seen the other side. What happens when line jumpers aren’t punished to the full extent of the common law (you know, “BACK OF THE LINE, ASSHOLE!”).
And it ain’t pretty.
You may be the next person in line for the next two hours.
Of course, even despite all my American whininess, Panama is a breathtakingly beautiful country full of wonderful people that everyone should visit if they can. I mean:
But it sure is nice to come home after hanging out in paradise, stand quietly in a straight, orderly line for a taxi at the airport and get home with any and all bowel movements remaining unmoved.