Informal interview/Commentary. A meteorite fell on Chelyabinsk, a large industrial city, on Friday, February 15. The explosion occurred twenty miles or so above the ground in Russia, yet repercussions were felt in San Diego.
“Valentina, you are from Chelyabinsk. Do you know about the meterorite?“ I asked of our charming Russian server at Elijah’s, a northern San Diego neighborhood deli. It was Friday, the day of the Russian meteorite hit. Valentina often waited table on our frequent eat-outs there.
Besides good food, the restaurant is known for its attentive service, much of which is provided by young adult gals from Russia. All serve with a smile, speak perfect English, present a polite energetic presence, and show complete knowledge of the menu. Every server exemplifies an admirable youth seeking to get ahead by working hard and integrating themselves seamlessly in American culture. Valentina was no exception.
“Yes, of course, the meteorite hit in my home city, Chelyabinsk,” Valentina responded when I asked. The cosmic hit in Chelyabinsk was not about to stunt service in San Diego, so I probed Valentina with a few direct questions before we ate. She answered promptly and factually without reservation.
She reported that there was damage in Chelyabinsk, but not a lot. Most of the injuries to people came from glass bursting from windows. She said that her parents were unharmed. Their apartment building suffered only a few broken windows. One factory was damaged more extensively, and all cell phone service was out for a short time.
“Have you seen the videos and reports online?” I queried. “Yes, thousands,” she said, perhaps exaggerating the number to reflect the accuracy of her knowledge. Not so accurate were U.S. media reports that blew the event out of proportion to the reality Valentina’s parents related by phone directly from Chelyabinsk. Even NASA stepped in to tell the Russians exactly how large the meteorite was that exploded in their skies.
Valentina cut the conversation shorter than expected, seeking to serve us rather than continuing to talk of cataclysmic tragedy instead of the minor misfortune that it was. “Do you need to see the menu further or may I take your order now?”
Our society is full of folks that harp on inequality, the deal they’ve been dealt, bad luck, or disasters that nature picked on them to bestow. Valentina does not exist in that group.
Unlike American mainstream media, Valentina was not one to dwell on the cosmic burp delivered to Chelyabinsk. Nor would she repeat the alarmist rhetoric sent out from government-sponsored scientific institutions in the United States. Valentina was interested in getting on with the life of opportunity she chose in America.
I wonder why American youth don’t show the same ambition and why the media prefers reporting public catastrophe rather than individual initiative.