In Her Language, We’d Call You “Baka”.
It was early afternoon when I had decided to head on over to the store down the road during my break to soothe the sugar craving that had been going on all day.
When I was ready to leave, I scooted behind a small, elderly Asian woman in line at the cash register. The Cashier, who seemed to have misplaced his Adderall, started throwing her items across the scanner before doing some over-the-shoulder in the air trick with her rewards card. He looked at her and exclaimed “Ni Hao Ma!”
I stopped what I was doing and stared at him for a bit, then looked at the lady. She seemed amused. She smiled and laughed as he continued to load things into bags for her. For those of you who don’t know “Ni Hao” is a greeting in Mandarin Chinese. My initial thought was What an idiot. Does he even know that she’s Chinese? Let alone speaks Mandarin?!
I still pondered these as a second thought came to mind. Maybe he knows her. Maybe she comes in often and he knows that she’s Chinese? Still, hearing “xie xie” (Mandarin for thank you) and some other garbled mess as she left gave me a bad feeling – like nails on a chalk board.
He got me through the line quickly, trying to be funny in an English accent. Oh, so you think I’m British too? Bastard. At that point in my head I had already decided he did not know the lady.
When I was leaving the store I noticed the lady was standing with her family outside. They were all talking to each other. I prepared to perk up my ears as I walked by to see if I could detect what they were speaking. However there wasn’t much detecting to do when the very first thing I heard when the door opened was a younger member of her family clearly saying “Daijoubu”. Which basically means “Okay or It’s Okay” — in JAPANESE.
I walked away wanting to back and tell off the guy in the store. I mean, some people (like this lady) might not notice or care but what if he does that to someone who really does and then gets himself in a lot of trouble? Am I overreacting to think he’s an idiot that needs to shut up? With such a huge race of people who were born here or not born here — how would you even attempt to guess their nationality for one, assume they don’t speak English for two, and add those two together to make yourself look like an idiot by talking to them in not their language for three?!
It’s times like these that remind me that there still are ignorant people — even in Western Washington. It takes me back to the days of elementary school when kids still stretched their eyes at the corners to imitate Asians. Sick.
Have any of you out there wrongly assumed someone a different nationality than they were? Have you ever been a victim of that?