Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Little Moaning: Traffic, Firewalls, and Football vs. Quiz Night

September 15, 2010 · 1 Comment

Since I’ve been here, I’ve witnessed several English moans, all ranging from the fact that Community Support Officers aren’t “real” officers to the weather to the sound being muted during a football match. The moaning doesn’t always bother me (unless I’m surrounded by it and find myself the only one who can find a positive), but the unwillingness to do something, or admit that there is something that can be done, does at times.

My first “moan-on” encounter was not traditional in any sense. Standing at a light waiting to cross the street in Piccadilly Circus, an elderly woman walked around us and started mumbling. I assumed it was something about tourists or Americans not willing to cross without a light unlike a true Londoner (in this case, even the most expert street crosser would have been hesitant!). After a few seconds of waiting, the lady decided that we were also annoyed with traffic and decided to engage us (being Matt and myself) in a moan about the Mayor’s Sky Ride that day. She admitted it was great, but the traffic was so backed up! She also had a rather ambiguous statement about the children being out all day on their bikes: who knows if this was a moan about children being inconsiderate bikers, parents not supervising their children, or if the lady just had something against children and bikes. Since then, I’ve noticed that if traffic is crazy or people are (im)patiently waiting to cross the street, no one strikes up a conversation. This hasn’t caught me off guard; in the US we don’t normally start up conversations while waiting at a street light with a strange. But it has made me wonder why this lady decided to engage us in conversation. Did we look lost? (We weren’t!) Was she lonely? Was she an exception to Kate Fox? (A sort of the exception proves the rule?) Or, did she just say to herself, “my powers of identifying Americans say those two are American! I wonder what they’re doing here”?

My next noticeable one was Monday night when everyone was trying to help set-up for the alumni presentation. If there was ever a time to enact the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phrase, this was it. My mac didn’t have the right hook up; the cord that fit my mac didn’t fit the TV; the firewall didn’t allow us to access youtube or facebook (even if I could get it to upload); I couldn’t get wireless because my computer wasn’t Barclay’s approved; the internet at Claridge’s was slow; the new d-son email system didn’t like the attachment; the Barclays IT guys couldn’t download the right plug-in to play a file created on a mac because of the firewall; the only blank writable CD in the building wasn’t actually blank and the information wasn’t erasable.  (I think that’s all of the problems.) Henrietta, the event planner, was amazing, very helpful, and continuously did a combination of the traditional English moan and apology. “I told the them we were working from a Mac. (Shakes head) ” “I’m so sorry about your presentation. I bet it’s ruined now!” “I’m sorry. I hope we haven’t messed up your presentation.” Even in the moment, I wanted to laugh because here was a perfect example of some of the ideas Fox explores. After a few feeble attempts to return the moans about the IT guys and the firewalls, as well as a few (seemingly unsuccessful) attempts to ensure her that our presentation was indeed going to be fine as I was quite sure we would think of something, I gave up in the co-moaning and just started suggesting plans to fix the problem. I’d much rather spend time debating ideas than dwelling on the fact our original, or billionth, plan didn’t work. Despite the moaning, Henrietta was still quite proactive in trying to resolve the problem and acted, it seemed to be, in the opposite way of the passive, go around that some of us have experienced elsewhere. The main IT guy, however, seemed less proactive, but that could have been because I was mainly a few doors down with Henrietta trying to upload and email the presentation. I was left wondering if working for an American for so long had influenced her aggressiveness.  (I’m not even sure if I would have the guts to go to one of the smartest places in London and “ask” to borrow their internet because we were in a tight spot.)  At the end of the night, despite the moans and technical glitches, the presentation came off okay. Apparently keeping calm and carrying on does work (if enough apologies are spread around).

My most recent and most amusing encounter with English moaning was last night when I went to the One Tun to watch a football match. Because it was Tuesday and Tuesday is the pub’s traditional quiz night, the sound on the TVs was turned off so that contestants could hear the quiz master (not that hearing him made the questions easier. I sort of think we would have done just as well without the actual questions…), which meant no football commentary. No one made a seen, but there was a complaint here and there. The best of which was a quiz team’s name: Turn On the Sound. It was a great passive-aggressive moan that got a few laughs every time the team score was announced. The sound was turned on- after trivia ended. Yet, by then, the game was over. (An annoying 2-2 draw between Tottenham and Bremen.)

I’ve enjoyed hearing the odd moan and I’ve really enjoyed seeing what people do to address the issue, especially when they get creatively passive. While every one is relatively good at keeping calm, the carrying on could use some work.

Categories: 2010 Stephenie
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1 response so far ↓

  •   groverdb // Sep 15th 2010 at 18:54

    Most moans I’ve encountered have been the nonverbal ones Fox identified in her book. I’ve seen a lot of foot shuffling and throat clearing at potential queue jumpers for instance but not a lot of outright moaning.

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