It amazes me still that after eleven years, I still encounter situations that confound me. Obviously there are many cultural differences between us and the American people but honestly by now, I thought I'd seen them all.
Case in point, during a recent conversation, a friend mentioned to me that an uncle of hers had passed away, they were indeed very close. Then the conversation continued on in a manner I hadn't expected.
"My uncle's funeral is Friday but I'm not going, I've got this thing to do at work."
She then went on to explain that she'd spent weeks organizing an event for her job, thus it being her event, it wouldn't be right if she missed it, especially not for the funeral of a secondary family member. Had it been a direct parent or a sibling, then "maybe" things might have been different.
I only say "maybe" at this point because I'm not entirely sure if it would make a difference given what I've experienced of the American work ethic, which basically goes "work first and always, fuck everything else."
As a Trinbagonian, this concept is entirely alien to me. From our perspective, there could be no greater disrespect to a person's memory than to arbitrarily miss a loved one's funeral especially not for work concerns. Even supervisors know better, I recall in 2001 when my grandmother passed away, my trini boss gave me the week off, paid leave without batting an eye. Yet when my grandfather passed in 2011, my American boss gave me one heck of a hard time just getting the time off, not to mention called the house on a few occasions while I was home, and even made some disparaging comments when I returned, something in the spirit of "people die everyday."
Trinbagonians also don't seem to distinguish between close family or extended family, friends or enemies when it comes to death. How many times have you sat at a funeral only to hear somebody say "man I couldn't stand his ass when he was alive but R.I.P. breds."
"ey look miss Ethel dead.....who's miss Ethel? De ole lady in de big house who leggo de dog on we when we was climbing up she mango tree? She dead? Doh make joke, when is de funeral? Monday? I calling off work"
Whether there is a blood association or a simple friendship that went back decades, we as a people drop everything to be there for a person in death.
If I accomplish nothing else in this life, I at least hope that at the end of time, that you my esteemed friends, family and colleagues do me one final honour by RAMMING OUT MY FUNERAL. I am so serious, make sure my funeral RAM!! When the time comes, I doh want to see an empty pew or I'm coming back to haunt all who eh show up.
I'm just saying.