Saturday, December 02, 2006

No hablo espanol, asshole.

Much to my stomach's dismay, I decided to go to Burger King (that's Hamburguesa Rey for you non-English speaking readers) for lunch today. Although I'm not really a huge fan of fast food, every once in a while I get a hankering for a Whopper with cheese.

I normally crave this delicacy in the late evening when my body needs a saturated fat boost. There's a Burger King not far from my house so it's easy to go through the drive-thru and pick one up. Well, needless to say, I'm not at home right now. I work in the West Side of Buffalo...a largely "comunidad hispánica", Spanish-speaking area.

I really don't care what languages families speak in their homes. I don't care what languages friends speak with each other. What bothers me is when I walk into a huge chain fast food restaurant and can't get the cashier to properly take my order because I don't speak Spanish. That irks me big time.

There I was...standing patiently in line, trying to decide whether I wanted french fries or onion rings with my #1 meal. I hear Spanish...OK. I figure, "Hey that's nice. It's very nice that the cashier is bilingual." I even think that it's a nice gesture on Burger King's part...hiring bilingual cashiers for those in the community who have a difficult time speaking English. Ha! I was mistaken.

It is now my turn. I go to the register and say, verbatim, "I would like a number one with cheese, medium sized, for here." She looks at her friend, then back at me and says something like, "Estoy apesadumbrado que no hablo inglés. ¿Podrías soportar tus dedos para decirme qué comida del valor quisieras pedir?" I'm assuming she said something like that...I don't know...I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH.

So, I tell the girl, "I don't speak Spanish". I say this with a smile on my face, thinking she's just playing a joke on me. She giggled...I thought the game was over. Nuh-uh. "Can I help you?", she says in a Spanish accent. Good, thought I, she speaks a little English. "Number one, for here." (I tried to make it simpler.) She punches some buttons and says "Cinco dieciocho." I knew that cinco meant five and the smallest bill I had was a ten. I handed it to her, she gave me change, I waited for my food.

I see them put a 9 piece chicken nugget something-or-other on the tray with some fries and a cup. I just assumed it was for somebody else. So I wait. Nobody comes up to get the food. I wait still. Finally, the cashier looks at me and said, and I kid you not, she said it just like this: "Yo wantcho food?" I swear to God I started laughing...out loud. I told her I didn't order it.

Long story even longer... A manager comes over and, although in a Spanish accent, asks me in English, "What's wrong, sir?" I told her that I ordered a Whopper value meal. She (the manager) apparently asks Lolita (the cashier with the fake name I just made up) some questions in Spanish. I have a translator on my computer...let me pretend that this is how the conversation went:

Manager: "Este muchacho blanco piensa que su orden es incorrecta."

Lolita: "Por supuesto es incorrecto. No podría entender una palabra que él dijo."

Manager: "Él me dijo que él pidiera una comida de Whopper."

Lolita: "No sé lo que deseas de mí, encargado. Apenas decirte que él sea un mentiroso y que él pidió las nueve ofertas del pollo del pedazo. Voy en rotura."

The manager then looked at me and said, "She said you ordered the chicken nuggets. If you want to change your order you can wait in line again." Then she walked away.

I stood there dumbfounded. Eventually I took my tray, ate the chicken things, and came back to work.

I've had Great-Grandparents come off the boat from all sorts of foreign speaking countries...every one of whom came here and learned how to speak English. They would have been embarrassed if they couldn't order off a menu, for instance. Why then, do I feel embarrassed that I couldn't speak Spanish at a Burger King in Buffalo, New York?

Next time I'm going to ORDER the chicken nugget meal and see if I get the Whopper instead...damnit.


Kate said...

Joseph, why didn't you just point to the picture? Next time try that!

Love you!

Anonymous said...

OH...My...GOD...I can't believe I just read that! Painful.

Anonymous said...