25 January 2005

Anthropology at home

Allow me to present two case studies:

The Scenario: There is a blizzard. Everyone is snowed in. Mostly everyone can dig themselves out, but some are physically incapable, whether through age or disability. How do these subjects deal with this situation? Let's watch.

1. One man who has judged himself too advanced in years to shovel his very long and steep driveway has very sensibly contracted someone to plow. The plows are very busy, so he hasn't been plowed out yet. He calls his daughter and very nicely asks, giving 24 hour notice, if she can drive over to his house the next day and take him to the store for supplies and groceries. She agrees.

2. As the daughter is on her way out the door to do said favor for said father, her mother calls. She, also, wants a favor. Would the daughter please drive by her house and tell her if her road has been plowed. She has been working at a shelter for the last two days and wants to know if she can access her house. The daughter knows this will make her late for picking up her father, but she agrees. After calling her father to tell him she will be late, she drives (at great peril!) to her mother's house. The road is plowed, but the driveway is not. She calls her mother on her cell phone and transmits this information.


"Oh, while you're there, dear, would you just go ahead and shovel the driveway for me? I'm physically incapable of doing all that work."


"No, Mom, I didn't bring my shovel with me, you didn't ask me to bring my shovel this morning, my back is already in knots from shoveling my own driveway, and I TOLD you I'm on my way to drive Dad to the store."


"Meh... meh... mooooooooooo..."


"No. Call my brother. He probably knows someone with a plow. Goodbye."


Do you see the distinctions here? The are subtle, yet glaring.

1. People who can't shovel make arrangements for someone else to do it for them, preferably a paid professional.

2. People who ask favors are most successful when they do not engage in subterfuge, obsfucation, or general evasiveness bordering on entrapment. They also ask more than 2.5 seconds in advance.

3. Daughters get cranky. Watch out.


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