Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Se habla Engles?

This 7-11 that I frequent is where I normally get gas as well as anything else that I need quickly. I'm familiar and friendly with most of the employees on all shifts at this location but within the past month or so, I noticed an Asian woman I'd never seen. She's in full 7-11 regalia thus my "not-so-sharp" mind determined that she's a new employee. I usually fill up my gas tank after I've finished my paper route which is normally before 5am. That's not a busy time for 7-11.

I go to the register with a cup of hot chocolate and a doughnut and I tell her "$35.00 on number 1". The woman stares at me for seemingly a half hour though I know it's only 7 or 8 seconds. She motions with a hand gesture for her coworker to assist. The guy's is talking her through the transaction but essentially performs it himself as it becomes apparent to me that.....SHE DOESN'T SPEAK ONE WORD OF ENGLISH. How do I know? On subsequent visits, she 'attempts' to handle my transaction but can't make her mouth form one word of English. 7-11 has fried chicken available between 4 and 5am (an odd time but it's good and salty so I get a couple of pieces once a week). During one visit, I ask her (while pointing) for 2 pieces of fried chicken. She looks at me for seemingly a half hour though I know it's only...well you get the idea. This time, her hand gesture for assistance goes unnoticed because her coworker is outside handling another task. The fact that SHE DOESN'T SPEAK ONE WORD OF ENGLISH is causing me great frustration so I decide not to help her through the transaction. She looks at me again as though she has no idea what needs to be done. So I repeat, "I'll have 2 pieces of fried chicken". Blank stare. I rephrase my request (knowing she won't understand), "I'd like a couple of them drum sticks". Blank stare. No expression whatsoever. Not even a shoulder shrug. I realize I'm fighting a losing battle and the coworker doesn't appear to be returning to the store anytime soon. So I walk over to the enclosed dish spinner with the hot lights and point to the chicken while saying "two". She puts one piece in a container. I look at her and say "two" while holding up two fingers. Apparently, this isn't something that's universal because she has no idea what I'm requesting. By this time, I've been in the store and at the register for at least 8 minutes. I have to get home because I'm tired so I wave her over to the register to ring up what's on the counter. She stares at the register for seemingly 15 minutes but this time I don't believe I'm exaggerating as much. She must've looked at the thing and punched buttons on the screen for about 5 minutes all the while knowing darn well she was clueless. Her coworker finally comes back inside and I ask him for help. Boom, I'm out of the store in literally 45 seconds.

Now I realize that I can't deal with this woman ever again. Whenever I go into that particular 7-11 and she's at the register, someone must be at the other register so that I can stand in line and wait for that other sales associate. If the another associate isn't at the other register, then they have to be in the store so that I can proactively let them know that she'll need his/her help while handling my transaction. In fact, I was in there this morning. I brought up a 16oz. soda, a 16oz. bottled water and a small bag of chips. She handled the transaction and the total was $4.76. A little high I thought so I asked for the receipt. I received the blank stare again so I repeated "receipt?" with a hand motion indicating a piece of paper with writing. Blank stare then 5 or so minutes of staring at the register screen and pushing buttons as if something magical will happen. Her coworker comes to the rescue, prints the receipt and hands it to me. Before he walks away, I tell him that my total is wrong. I brought three items to the register and was charged for four. In her direction, the coworker points to my three items and points to the 4 items on the receipt. She smiles as though she understood her error so maybe there's progress.

Now let me ask... since she doesn't speak any English, how on earth was she hired? As I'm typing, I'm remembering that the store manager is also an Asian woman. Therefore, I can imagine that they spoke their native language during the interview and it's likely that the store manager didn't ask if she spoke any English (or maybe she doesn't care). The woman does not suffer from any form of mental retardation. She's not "slow". When I see her performing other tasks in the store (cleaning, stocking, managing food, etc), her actions are quick and deliberate. Therefore, I can tell that she has intelligence (yes, in my opinion, it takes intelligence to perform these tasks). So it's apparent that she simply DOES NOT KNOW ONE WORD OF ENGLISH.

Let me bring this rant to a close with the following. Not only do I not mind, but I like people from other nations living and working in the good ol' US of A. But you simply must speak SOME ENGLISH. Period. None of the workers in this 7-11 don't speak English clearly. I don't mind. Many times, I have to repeat something I've said 3 or 4 times before it's understood. I don't care. The ethnicities of the workers in this 7-11 include Indians, Mexicans, Ethiopians, Latinos and Asians. I repeat, none of them speak perfect English. I love them all. They're all fascinating if you engage them in conversation (even small talk). I don't mind struggling to understand some of the words they're speaking because they have something to say and it's something I want to hear. But how in the world could can I be expected to communicate with someone who doesn't speak a word of my native language in my country? Speak some English. A little will do. Doesn't have to be much. Learn one sentence a month. And he's another suggestion. If you're here and don't know the language, the first sentence you should learn is "I'm sorry but I don't know much English". Boom, that lowers any raising temperatures in me.