The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow David Gonzalez Chavez.

I believe almost everything that people tell me. Every time as a child when someone asked me what was on my shirt, I’d look down. Every time they’d say it says gullible on the ceiling, I’d immediately look. It hasn’t ever been a big deal for me in my regular life, mostly just making for awkward situations when I don’t realize that someone is joking with me. That is, until I got to Belfast.

Something I quickly picked up on here is that everyone jokes about everything, and in the worst way for me to pick up on them joking. Almost every time I go to a store and ask if I can buy something, the clerk will jokingly say “no” until they recognize in my dumbfounded expression that I definitely don’t see the sarcasm. If I ask for a coworker for a favor, same situation; a simple request is almost always greeted with a sarcastic “no,” a long pause, and then a laugh and an “of course.” My problem is that I always believe the initial no.

Knowing this constant use of sarcasm and jokes, I’ve been trying to improve my ability at picking up on when people aren’t being serious. About a month into being in Belfast I got a week off, so I took an impromptu trip to Scotland. I hadn’t used any public transportation before getting to Scotland as in Belfast I rely on my bike for transportation, so when I got on to a double-decker there I saw that they allowed for contactless payment with my phone. Once I got back to Belfast I met up with a former gapper, Leah Simon, and we went into city center together; we eventually hopped onto a double-decker, and I went in to pay for the fare with my phone.

“We don’t do take contactless payment,” the bus driver said.

Aha! Finally, I caught a joke because I knew that double deckers took contactless payment; this bus was the same as the ones I was on in Scotland, so it must have it. Despite his warning, I put my phone on the card reader to pay for the fare.
And nothing happened.

The bus driver looked at me with a mixture of awe and pity, and again told me that they didn’t take contactless payment. By then I realized that my stroke of brilliance in finally catching when someone is joking with me was in fact a catastrophic failure, and I took out my credit card in dismay.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get the hang of realizing when people are joking with me here, but for now I’ll keep playing it safe.