Saturday, August 30, 2008

English please

I really am not a racist. However, after reading this blog, some of you may feel that I am right on the border of becoming one.

Yesterday, while driving Haley to yet another sleep over. (This kid is so lucky!) We realized that we had forgotten to pack her toothbrush. I was on a tight schedule anyway and didn't want to turn around and go home. Plus we have spent almost $2700 on her braces, and I don't want there to be holes in her teeth when the braces finally come off. So, being the good mother that I am, I stopped at an AM PM mini-mart. Apparently, toothbrushes are in high demand, or at least stolen a lot because the only way to get a toothbrush was to wait in line and have the cashier bring me one. You know, kind of like buying cigarettes. I thought this was odd and slightly annoying, but I got in line. When I finally arrived to the front of the line I said, "Could I have a toothbrush please?" And immediately there was a look of panic that went across the cashier's face. During my request I had pointed in the general direction of the hanging toothbrushes, where also hung, dental floss, combs, chapstick, and other highly theft worthy items. Above where these things hung, was a shelf full of tampons. And that is what the cashier brought me. I said "Toothbrush," she hears "Tquwiojlso" and notices the big letter "T" on the box of Tampons and assumes that must be what I asked for. She put the box in front of me and I said, "No, no, no a toothbrush." She again looked panicked, said something in Spanish to her co worker, who was too busy to answer. She turned her back to me and looked closely at each product hanging on the wall. Unfortunately, the word toothbrush is not written on the package. So she showed me a comb. To which I said, no and gave the international sign for toothbrush. Then she understood. She apologized and rung me up. I couldn't even speak, I was so shocked by this occurrence.

I know there is a big controversy about whether or not people who speak different languages, that come to this country, should be required to speak English or should we (English speakers) make sure all signs and documents are linguistically accommodating. I have my own opinions. However, it seems obvious to me that if you work in a store you should at least know all the English words for what you are selling. Maybe I am unfair, but I doubt if I go to France and need a toothbrush, and ask for a toothbrush, that I will get a toothbrush.

And in related news, while picking up a cake at VONS yesterday, the checkout lady, with an obvious knowledge of the English language asked me if I could just carry the cake because, "I don't GOT any big bags." And the kid who helped me in the bakery, when asked if he could write on my cake said, "Sup...I'll get someone to help you."

"Sup?????" Do I look like a homey? I am concerned when our customer service in America can't even address an adult correctly, say a sentence that is grammatically correct, or understand the words coming out of a customers mouth.

Remember, we are the change we have been waiting for.