Sunday, May 10, 2009

I've got a lot of things swirling around in my head today. Nothing too important, just a lot of wonderings. I'm wondering a lot these days.

Subject #1: A lot of Indians come into our restaurant. More than I've ever seen anywhere else. I love it when they come in. They have these rich accents and clothes with such hearty colors and beautiful draping. I love the older Indian women. They float in with sternness and beauty and I am overwhelmed with my ignorance of their culture. I wish I knew more about them. I wish I wasn't afraid to ask about things. One thing has been very intriguing to me. Every time they come in, the women are very particular to eat only vegetarian dishes. Now, everything can be made without meat but there's really only one dish on our menu that is strictly vegetarian. The Indonesian Peanut Saute isn't made with any butter or fish oil or milk or anything. The men get whatever they want. They order shrimp and steak in their food. Even for girls. The younger girls get the Indo while their brothers eat Macaroni and Cheese. I wonder if it's just a coincidence or if there's a reason for that. It's always been very intriguing for me. I must Wikipedia it.

Subject #2: Is not open for discussion in this forum.

Subject #3: I've never really dealt with racism. Not ever. I grew up in Stafford where we had one half-black kid and then moved to Olathe where, let's face it, I never actually had to deal with a lot of culture differences. There are all sorts of different people but I never really dealt with anyone much unlike myself until recently. It's just how it worked out.
So now I work here in a noodle shop with some of the greatest people ever. I work with two gay people and a handful of Spanish speaking guys. They're not all from Mexico, but when customers hear Spanish, they think they are. And customers are rude. Rude.
There was a time when I felt really indifferent to them. I thought it was admirable to uproot a family and bring them to America but that was about it. But now, these guys are my friends and I have a tiny taste of how hard life is for them. I work with them for about 5 hours a day and communicating with them is so draining and so difficult (but so rewarding)--and they have to do that all day every day. They have to talk to people at the bank and the grocery store. Their cars break down and they have to tell people about it. All they have to say to me is, "nessicito pollo Parmesan". Most of the Spanish I know has to do with shrimp, meatballs, Pad Thai. It's really fun to talk to them. I love learning new things, and teaching them new things. Julien and Gerardo are my favorites. Gerardo is probably my age and flirts with me in a totally un-creepy and friendly way and that's always fun. Julien is older, maybe 45, and he brings me the newspaper so I can teach him new words. For the past few days, we've been mastering the right context for, "Take it easy!"
A few nights ago, a lady came up to the counter and asked for an extra plate. I turned around and asked Julien for uno plato. The lady made a snarky comment about how unfortunate it is that they come to our country and we have to be the ones to learn to speak "Mexican." I was infuriated. I turned around and gave her an involuntary, angry glare--I've never been good at controlling my face. I tried to be as polite as possible when I said that, first of all, they're not all from Mexico and that we are all learning a lot from each other when it comes to communicating, in Spanish.
On top of that, this woman was from India. It was difficult for me to understand most of what she said to me, but I adapted and together we got her order and made small talk and were grateful for one another. But then she comes back and pulls that shit? I was more angry than I've ever been at work. More angry than when a kid intentionally dumps his macaroni and cheese under the table. It's not as though she doesn't know what intolerance looks like. It's not like people don't struggle to communicate with her. It's not like she doesn't know how difficult life is for someone who even speaks the popular language. But those boys back there are mi amigos, they work damn hard and their lives are far from easy--the least I can do is learn the word for "plate" and take a tiny load off of them.

Okay. It's time to go back and finish my shift.
I really do love my job. Everyone is different. Everyone is friends. Everyone learns about tolerance and communication and the fact that we're all deeply loved, deeply spiritual beings. Even when we are scrubbing cheese sauce out of the carpet.



Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

AMEN! to topic #3. It's as if intolerant people have never seen An American Tale...or been outside of the states. Well, with the exception of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, of course. Why are we as a people SO INCLINED to hate eachother?! I heard possibly the most racist comment the other day at work, where the lady referred to a native "not treating her like a white person". WHAT?! What does that mean?! And when I shared it with others at work, they replied that they had heard way worse than that from their own father.

It literally broke my heart.

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