Posted by: roamingolivia | October 8, 2010

Most mornings, I am filled with rage

When I and my siblings were children, my parents spent a lot of time trying to teach us not to be selfish. Many of the phrases that are now part of our family culture relate to this. One of the most important Bible verses we learned as children was Philippians 2:4 (Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others); I have no idea how many times I had to say that verse, but it is burned forever on my mind.

On Sunday mornings, my dad would wake up early, and cook hot breakfast for us. This usually meant at least one tube of canned biscuits (if you live in the South or in the US in general you understand that American/southern biscuits are like unsweet scones, not like cookies – I hyperlinked this to help my foreign readers), plus maybe some canned sweet rolls/cinnamon rolls. (You’re learning a lot about my cultural background right now.)

Anyway, that paragraph got complicated with explanations. Every Sunday – and probably a lot of normal days but I associate this with Sunday – my father would make us biscuits and cinnamon rolls, and then he would go to get dressed. We would pull them out of the oven, and then if our basest instincts won, we would grab one of these deliciously hot biscuits, put butter on it, and eat it. (Butter is important in southern/Texan food – although we’re not really from the South because we didn’t really have gravy on our biscuits.)

This meant the rest got cold, and then when everyone else came to eat theirs, they tried to put butter on it, but it didn’t melt and was therefore not good. My dad really hated this (he really likes biscuits with butter), and he lectured us a lot on “buttering one biscuit”. It became a family analogy that encompassed all selfish behavior, so that if you can only think of yourself, you were “buttering one biscuit”.

But what I remember most is my dad saying (maybe muttering, maybe almost-yelling), usually when he’s even too grumpy to even use the buttering-one-biscuit analogy, “I’ve got mine, pull up the rope.”

I am not sure what situation this references in a literal sense (when was the last time you used rope?), but it essentially means that you don’t care who comes after you, because you’re happy you got what you wanted. (Presumably you have climbed somewhere on a rope and gotten your treasure, and don’t care about all the other people who need to come up on the rope. My sister noted this may refer to being in a hole after a “serious natural disaster” or a mining accident; it was an amusing conversation.)

Like buttering one biscuit, pulling up the rope means basically you’re a selfish jerk.

That’s the background. Now we get to the rage.

I was living closer to work before, so I walked to work when I couldn’t face the Metro. But I now live 8 stops away from work, so I have no choice. I have to take the Metro here in Milan. And every single day, I see something which I have never seen to such a degree on any public transport system in the world, and which enrages me. Both of these phrases are meant in a literal sense.

Basically, when Milanese people step onto the Metro, even if it is basically empty and there is a huge crowd of people behind them, they just stop. They step onto the car, and then they block the door. Every day. (Almost) every person.

This drives me nuts. First, because it makes the human-offloading-and-onloading process extremely slow, making the commute longer and basically worsening one of the main requirements of a good public transportation system, which is essentially that it is punctual.

Second, it is just annoying and rude. It is the urban equivalent to, “I’ve got mine, pull up the rope” – probably the most literal equivalent I have seen yet in my life. So that phrase – in my dad’s voice – echoes through my head every morning, for about 20 minutes a day, handily remixed with things like: “Do you just not notice that there are 20 people behind you? No. You just do not care. This is audacious!”

In London – not that this would happen in London, except occasionally, and I’m not sure why not – I would just sigh really loudly or tell people to move down. In Milan, this appears to be more or less socially acceptable behavior.

I have about a week left here, so you can at least hope – as I do – that this does not push me over the edge of sanity in that space of time. If I was staying longer, I’d have to move closer to work.



  1. Hilarious. When I was in Kuala Lumpur taking their neat metro system that weaves through skyscrapers a few stories up, I had a similar experience. There was no “first people get off, then people get on” rule. So even if the train was nearly empty, and even if just two people wanted off and three on, these people would bash into each other and shove one another across the threshold. It kind of cracked me up. I guess that would get annoying after a while…

    But that’s how I feel about people I work with not leaving a lab in a suitable condition for someone to use it after them. There’s always biohazard trash overflowing, goo crusted on to work spaces (with varying degree of associated hazard), empty things not refilled, equipment mysteriously moved to other labs, etc. I get The Rage. I gave up thinking I could change others and I faced my choices of either cleaning up after people or working in their shit. Both make me angry, so I’m leaving academic science. If I wanted to clean up after people, I’d have children.

  2. My dad will get really angry with people who get on an elevator without first letting others off. Like, angry enough to say something. It’s pretty funny, but yeah, it really frustrates me too. Every once in a while there would be someone who would try to sneak on without letting anyone else off on the Tube, but it clearly frowned upon.

    We always got biscuits from Hardee’s (possibly Carl’s Jr in other parts of the U.S.?) I love their butter biscuits. Although, I hate gravy. Does that make me a bad Southerner?

  3. He wasn’t really that grumpy, was he?

    I am glad that you learned and kept something we taught you! We’ve been praying Jeremiah 24: 7 for you (all) for a couple of years. What can you do with that one? Just kidding…

    Nice blog, not too harsh on us. Rather nostalgic.

    I had never eaten a biscuit ( that I remember) until I met your Dad. 🙂 Isn’t Yuma in the South? ( That’s when he says I’m a Yankee and I remind him I was born further south…

    Love you, honey.

  4. P. S. ditch the rage– I isn’t helathy for you. 😦

  5. hmmmmm typing worse thatn usual

  6. Its an interesting association here–both incidents describe stuff that happens in the morning that shows either selfish or unselfish behavior. Its really easier to be unselfish at other times of day, but in the mornings . . . well, I guess you see what all of us are really like.

  7. I fking hate this too – when I see idiots do that, I usually give them an evil glare, or look at them and say “come on,” or shove my way through and walk to where they should have.

  8. I don’t know where the term “I’ve got mine, pull up the rope!” came from, except that fellow aviators would say it when I flew with the Marine Reserve squadron in Dallas, and applied to a “me first” situation, either flying or work duties.

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