As I mentioned in my post about how I learned to speak Romanian, there exists something in this country which I call the Righteous Scolding, known in some parts as the Scolding of Righteousness.
I got to bust out a good Scolding of Righteousness yesterday and I’m about to pitch a big one on Monday so I thought I’d go into it in more depth here so you too can join in (in a virtual manner) on the fun.
First off, some definitions:
Scolding: A harsh or sharp reprimand. Chiding: rebuking a person harshly. To reprimand or criticize harshly and usually angrily.
Righteousness: Adhering to moral principles. Morally upright, without guilt or sin
Add them together and you get the Scolding of Righteousness™, which I am hereby trademarking because I totally invented the term. For my Romanian-speaking readers the term would be Muştruluială Justificata.
As I’ve mentioned before and shall mention again, in Romania there is exactly one way to do everything. I’ve been traveling around Europe since I was a kid but Romania is easily the most homogenous country I’ve ever been to, culturally speaking. If you walk into a school in one city and look around, it’s a carbon copy of any other school in any other town. Everyone is taught exactly the same and individuality is NOT a strong suit of the Romanian people.
It’s so ingrained in the culture here that Romanians are rarely consciously aware that there is Only One Way to do everything, known as sa fi corect. In English, “correct” just means “accurate” or “the right answer” but in Romanian it means something along the lines of “adhering to the One Way”. Romanians however are never happier than when their house looks corect, they dress corect, they speak corect and in all ways generally conduct themselves in a corect manner.
It’s a little eery sometimes (the lack of individuality) but it has a tremendous advantage for the super small group of people known as the Foreigners Who Speak Romanian. Why? Because Romanians are all brought up from birth to submit to Higher Authorities on how to be corect. Their parents, their neighbors, their teachers, the police, the conductor on the train, whomever – they’ve all spent years being chided (scolded) on how to be corect.
The way this scolding is done is always the same. First, the one doing the scolding (known as the Scolder) has to adopt an indignant and slightly pissed off tone. It’s not yelling exactly as in foaming at the mouth and overly loud volume (which is definitely NOT corect) but it is louder than normal conversation. The Scolder must employ the most righteous tone possible, as if the Scolder were a very strict and morally upright preacher and the receiver of the scolding (known as the Scoldee) were nothing but a low down, filthy sinner who was in verrah danger of going straight to hell.
And last but not least, the Scolder must adopt a sort of sad, regretful look to his/her face, as if they really, truly did NOT want to resort to the scolding but gosh darn it, the Scoldee forced the Scolder to do it and don’t you know deep down it hurts the Scolder more than it does the Scoldee to even do this? So quit being so silly and intentionally mischievous and naughty and save ourselves both the embarrassment of this situation already!
An example from my past of how I learned the technique of the Scolding of Righteouesness:
After years of the trains in Romania being nightmares on wheels, CFR (Romanian railways) scored some sweet European Union money and bought a brand-new series of trains known as the “Blue Arrow” (Romanian: sageata albastru). Just super nice, modern trains, top of the line, very clean, spacious and modern with little digital scrolling signs inside and music piped in through overhead speakers, the works. And yes, the bathroom itself was both quite modern, new and most importantly, CLEAN.
One morning I was riding the 6:00 am Blue Arrow train to Timisoara when I realized I had to pee quite badly. I went to the bathroom but saw the little red indicator was turned, meaning it was occupied. The (female) conductor was standing right outside so I realized she too had to go so I settled in for a bit of a wait.
The toilet flushed, the door indicator went from green to red, and a young man stepped out, evidently finished with his “business”. The conductor went inside. A moment later she came out and marched right out to the young man who had just exited the bathroom.
Conductor: Hey you, what is this?
Young Man: What?
Conductor: The bathroom. Look at this. You were just in here and now there’s pee on the seat. You did this.
Young Man: (hangdog look)
Conductor: This is a nice train and it must be kept nice! This is not how you use the bathroom! I realize you were not properly trained by your parents but when you make a mess like this, you must clean it up. Now GO back in there, take some paper towels and clean it up.
Young Man: Yes ma’am (still hangdog look)
And yes, I had to wait a little bit longer but it was totally worth it.
And THAT is how a Scolding of Righteousness is done. The best part though is I, the Wily and Crafty Foreigner who Speaks Romanian, use this to my advantage. Any time something does not go exactly right, I immediately bust out a Scolding of Righteousness. Romanians are so well-trained to respond to Scoldings of Righteousness that they immediately become like the young man in the example above: adoping a sort of hangdog, guilty, submissive attitude and then they hop to it and immediately begin trying to redress the problem.
Below is my own phone conversation from yesterday wherein I called the American Embassy in Bucharest. I had gone down there about 6 weeks ago to renew my passport and at the time they told me two weeks tops I should be getting it. I should mention here that the Bucharest, like every single other American embassy around the world, is 99% staffed with locals who literally do all of the work, up to and including visas and passports and “American Citizen Services”. Sometimes I think the only American in the freaking joint is the ambassador himself, who probably sits in his (or her) office, sipping on martinis and watching CNN and playing golf all day.
Embassy lady: God moorning, Americahn Imbassy.
Me: (all sweet and polite) Yes, good morning, blah, blah, I came to the embassy to get my passport renewed 6 weeks ago and it’s not here.
Embassy lady: And your name, sir?
Me: (slowly and carefully spell it out)
Embassy lady: Please to wait one moment, sir and I look our computer.
Embassy lady: I sorry, sir but I don’t find record of your coming here.
Me: (switching to Romanian for Righteous Scolding) Hey you, you check again! Open your eyes and this time look better! (spells name in Romanian alphabet). I have the receipts of my payment for this! I have evidence!
Embassy lady (now in Romanian too) Ok sir, right away sir, I am sorry. I am scum of the Earth. I will check again and if I do not find your information I will commit ritual suicide as my honor is stained forever.
Me: Ok then!
Then a totally new guy, another Romanian, gets on the phone and offers to dig deep through their apparently mountain of records and to call me back and so sorry, sir and we’ll get right on it, sir and please take my first-born daughter for your momentary pleasure, sir as it is the least I can do.
And then about 30 minutes later he did call me back and it turns out they (the embassy) did everything right and sent it off via Cargus and that apparently they (Cargus) are sitting on it and it’s cooling its heels in their little warehouse right here in Cluj because apparently my address is impossible to find.The Embassy Guy then promises me that he will call Cargus right away and get on top of it and pass onto them my telephone number (again) and then they can find me and deliver the passport.
I’m quite confident Embassy Guy did what he said he would do but the idiots at Cargus never called me, which completely doesn’t surprise me AT ALL. I know Cargus and Cargus is the most idiotic Romanian delivery company (similar to your FedEx or UPS in America) of all time. I’m stealing their logo right off their stupid flash-heavy website just because they can suck it.
It’s true, Cargus will pick up your package in lickety-split record time. They will then shuttle said package to the appropriate town or city in record time. But then they are always completely clueless on how to find any address in the entire city. This happened to me once before when I lived in downtown, right in the heart of the city, the easiest addresses to freaking find!
And so I had to march myself out to their hideous warehouse, located behind a giant chemical depot near Piata 1 Mai (every town in Romanian has a street or square or something named for the holiday) and got to yell and fuss and righteously scold them for their ineptitude.
So yes, hopefully Monday, I get to go back out to the Cargus warehouse and engage in another fine, fine Scolding of Righteousness. Can you tell I’m looking forward to it? *SUPERMEGAGRIN*