They had been talking for some time in not quite hushed tones, mostly openly, about the problems with some of the people in their department. Other people. Not them. Everyone was in accordance, more or less. Every sentiment was high-toned, but . . . honest.

This was in a break area, during a non-designated but well deserved break time. A non-challengeble break time, from all perspectives, with full repertoires of justifications should there even be the slightest implication of a challenge. An open area in that it was not behind a closable door, but not in full view of passersby either. In other words, should they suspect someone listening, it would have been possible to modify the spoken tones.

Certain things were understood, were within the realm of merely being human.

Surely everyone there knew how important it was to have times when you weren't striving as hard as you could to get the job done. Times when you were not having to bust your butt.

Other things too, such as occasionally being too loud, or too merry within earshot of patients or the families of or visitors of the patients. A certain kind of jocular, or vernacular, merriment--to be precise.

But still, there was such a thing as too much.

There were others, none of them among us now, who did such things. And such was being discussed, or bemoaned, how unfortunate it was, and what was there to be done about the situation?

It was sticky, for sure, because it involved the other people.

And then one of them said something--something that hung in the air for an icy moment. It shattered the whole atmosphere, in complex ways. What was, mildly, almost sweetly, was "It's just, you know, their culture."

It was almost as if a deeply derogatory term had been spoken.

Horror. Stunned silence. The implication of insensitivity. The situation was dangerously close to prejudice.

Well. It's true.

Without physically moving, the space between the participants grew detectably.

But there is a difference between knowing it and not saying it, and saying it and knowing it. They didn't need words to express this.

I don't care. I'm not being mean. It's not like using the word genetic or anything. (There was an audible gasp.) I'm just saying that's how their surroundings teach them.

Everything was ruined in the break room. And they had to go back to work, too.