Call Me a Xenophobe, but I just want a number eight and a hashbrown


Okay, quick problem.

I really don’t know what to do about immigration in this country.

It’s hard for me to say Latinos, Fillipinos, and others from various Asian and African countries are taking jobs once held by blacks, or in other words, “taking all the good jobs from good hard working Americans” because it proposes yet another paradox of the oppressed becoming the oppressor.  Little do we know that it was the economic clarion call of Protestant Anglo-Saxon men during the years of legal slavery in the United States in response to free Africans living in this country.

But, it’s interesting to see the geographic differences in employment of those in the service industry. 

Down south, at least in the two cities that I’ve spent significant time living, New Orleans and now Atlanta, by in large the service industry has been dominated by blacks.  But, as was the case when I did my internship in Montgomery County, Maryland over the past summer–it was no telling who you were going to get going to Popeyes ordering the chicken strip dinner.

Seriously, the language barrier became more than passing nuisance.

Me and the other intern used to mildly joke about it.  At first I seriously felt uncomfortable about it, especially when a few times the people behind the counter were my color, but when I went to the Popeyes on 355 over last summer and it took me about 10 minutes to get two orders down solely because of the language barrier I realised that this was not a passing problem.  Now no one need worry about how I handled the situation, I was quite calm and never once got heated or demanded to speak to a manager and I politely smiled throughout the entire ordeal save me heavily rolling my eyes with the other intern every time she looked down or turned around.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This was the case when I rolled into the drive through at Taco Bell, or McDonald’s and honestly it was quite annoying.  So, that was last summer.  So just last week when I found myself back in the DC Metro area for the inauguration festivities, I popped up to the McDonalds off of 355 by the Sports Authority and the mall in Gaithersburg after I filled up my tank.  I went inside because the lines didn’t look too long.  I ordered the sausage biscuit meal, and homegirl behind the counter never discovered the “s” in sausage nor the “b” in biscuit let alone the endings.

She soooooo couldn’t speak English that I wonder who filled out her job application.  I mean if her spoken English was that bad, did she miraculously know how to write it?  I’m really not sure, and I don’t mean that as a tongue and cheek.  Personally I remember when I took my languages, the easiest part of learning a language was the writing and reading part.  Now personally, I think I have a slight knack for languages, so speaking wasn’t a hang up for me.  Listening on the other hand–oh hell naw, I never knew what those records and tapes were saying.  I could understand my professors and teachers in person much easier.

Whatever the case was, homegirl at the McDonalds that morning wore me out.

Again, I didn’t get angry.  But I do remember that she slurred “sausage biscuit” so severely that I remember my immediate response was to channel my inner Samuel L. Jackson via Lakewood Terrace and say “What the hell did you just say?  Because I didn’t understand it.”

Now I think going to McDonalds and having problems with ordering your number eight is one problem that perhaps Americans could deal with, but I think the major outsourcing of these telemarketing jobs to places like India are what’s starting to work the collective nerves of the public.  None of us really talk about it in public because it comes off as culturally insensitive.  Only blowhards like a Limbaugh can say it and get away with it, or the off-color joke from one of the women on The View or bloggers.  But, it seems to me that our congressional representatives both in the state and federal level must be in bed with the lobbyists to allow crap like this to happen.  In all honest fairness, with the unemployment rate creeping up slowly, I’m sure many people here in THIS country wouldn’t mind getting a telemarketing job for about $10 an hour–but no, someone over in India gets the job, and we’re still on step one with them asking “is the product securely connected to a reliable power source.”

That’s the problem as I see it–really a language barrier with both the people in the service industry and the international telemarketersI don’t have an answer to this, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while.  I aint hatin’ on where immigrants live, what stores and businesses they open up in their communities, but when their shortcomings begin to affect me, I begin to wonder WTF?!?!

So, it seems to me that either I end up with someone who probably doesn’t understand me when I place an order and I ultimately don’t understand them, or Shanaynay from around the corner–honest answer, I’d rather have Shanaynay.

Have you had any particularly memorable experience with someone who was clearly not born in this country in a service sector, particularly a language problem?  How did you deal with it?  How do you suggest we deal with it, or is it even something that’s really a problem?

4 thoughts on “Call Me a Xenophobe, but I just want a number eight and a hashbrown

  1. I don’t like how where I live everything is in Spanish and Polish. I fully support your ability to work, but the ability to speak and write English should be a requirement when you have to interact with the public that does speak English.

    I recall several trips to Mc Donalds where the employees continue to say “Welcome to McDonnas”???? WTF?

    Work where you want, but this is America where the English language is the recognized language of this country.

  2. Uppity, I’m not really with you on this one, even though I agree it is annoying when you cannot understand the people you are talking to. But I have a really hard time with the accents of the boys & young men [mostly White] here in the Midwest, including my own son! They mumble unintelligibly and slur words together. There are a lot of “native” regional accents I have trouble with. Besides Midwestern White boys, I have trouble with some Black urban accents, again particularly young people’s.

    I grew up in California. Years ago, when I was living in North Carolina, I was doing phoning for the Democrats. I got one woman (clearly White, from her accent), and launched into my get out the vote spiel. When I was done, she said in a slow Piedmont drawl (which is funnier if you can hear me saying it, hard to replicate typing): “Iiiiimmmm . . . sorrrrrrrry . . . . I … diiiidn’t . . . unnnnderstaaaand . . . aaahh …. worrrrrd … you said.” Who had the foreign accent in that one?

    My view: in a global world, international English is not our regional Englishes, it is a different language, spoken slowly with limited vocabulary and distinct pauses between words.

  3. @olderwoman

    Duly noted.

    Now perhaps because I’ve lived both in the midwest, and lived in the South, not many accents U.S. regional accents throw me for a loop. But you are correct, I’ve visited many a Taco Hell at night and had to pause a few seconds to try and interpret what was said to me.

    I guess it is the xenophobia in me because I’d rather have “Shananay” rather than “Maria.” Maybe it really is because my ear is better attuned to the former rather than the latter. I don’t know; it’s a conflict for me.

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