On my way back from getting lunch (SubWay sandwich. Don’t ask me what kind; they all taste the same, anyway) I was waiting in a lobby for the elevator with a coworker. When the elevator came, she (I’ll call her “N”), a petite and thin Asian woman, pushed forward but had to stop as the three folks riding down got off.

I laughed as we got on the elevator and said, “Out before in, didn’t you know that?”

She laughed, nervously, and said, “Oh, I know.” After a reflective pause, she confided, “I got a fine once in Asia for that.”

I was delighted! “You did? That’s awesome!” I pictured a white-gloved uniformed man with a whistle writing out a ticket for her.

“Yeah. They don’t do that here.”

“No, no, they don’t. Here it’s just a rarely-observed matter of etiquette.”

“Yeah.”

After a brief silence she said, “I lived in Singapore and in Singapore they will arrest you and beat you up for spitting your gum out.” She paused, smiling, then emphasized the point, “really beat you up.” I was confused by her mixed signals. Was she embarassed by this? Or happy? Or lying? I couldn’t tell.

“Oh, I know, I’ve heard about Singapore. Where were you when you got the fine?”

“Japan.”

“Ah. Right. Right. Those silly Japanese.”