Sunday, April 17, 2005

Hazed For A Sandwich

I was at the neighborhood sandwich joint for a tuna sub for J and I. The teen that was taking my order stood there like a retard with a loaf of wheat bread smeared with tuna and kept staring at me. "Is that all that goes into it ?" I asked incredulously "Whatever-else-you-want-with-it" he slurred.

This is just the kind of pebbles-in-mouth-uniform-intonation mumble that drives me up the wall. "Isn't there a standard recipe for it ?" I asked. It had taken a good five minutes to reach a common understanding about the type of bread I wanted.

Customers were lining up behind me. The teen shrugged his shoulder and mouthed something that I totally lost. He was doing nothing to the tuna smeared bread. "I don't see anything labeled in there so how I can tell what you have ?" I said pointing to a row of opaque plastic bottles of dressing. He named all ten of them without so much as pausing to catch his breath.

J was following this with curiosity looking at the teen and at me by turn. She could tell Mommy was getting real mad. "You know what, since I can't understand a word of what you're saying and you don't have a recipe, just thrown in whatever you like and I'll pay you for your trouble." I said in obvious exasperation. The silence around me with pregnant with deep, undecipherable meaning. I realized I could hear only myself. J inched closer to me.

That shook his speech out of the slur-mumble mode. He actually said "Would you like some tomatoes ?" just like a normal person would. I was even given the typical how-would-you-like-it spiel. He was perfectly articulate now. The transaction was completed in mere seconds.

This is the kind of racial hazing I have been through many times before and am building an immunity towards it. I figure I can't be troubled by a high-school drop- out who is convinced he is not making as much he should because a colored female immigrant took his rightful entitlement away from him.

I guess it is too much to expect that he have any awareness of the Indian educational system, or know how kids there work their tails of for all the high school years to get through the competitive exams for top of the line engineering and medical schools. His notion of numbers and ratios would fail him if I told him that several million candidates compete for a few thousand seats.

Back in my time, failing was not an option because there was no diversity in career choices that paid the bills. We worked very hard to be where we are and the legal immigration channels that people like me go through in the US deplete us of the little life we've got left. If he had worked a tenth as hard as I had he could have been graduating from a top tier school in his country with employers wooing him with signing bonuses.

The fact that he and the system could not work to the betterment of his life has nothing to do with me would be more than he can comprehend. I feel strongly tempted to ask "Wanna trade ?" If he can stay at my job for more than a day, I'll give it away to him freeing myself to flip burgers from now until eternity knowing my life's real purpose was thus revealed unto me.

My only concern about the message J gets from being witness to such incidents. I don't necessarily want her to grow up with a chip on her shoulder.


Yayan said...

Awesome~~~ (",)

interesting blog entries...

keep on bloggin'

carpe diem!

FunnyCide said...

I would definitely trade my job for the next week for burger flipping, burrito stuffing, hot-dog grilling.. gees.. I shudder to face the coming week.

buckwaasur said...

hmm...interestingly, i'd never interpreted the behavior of mumbling teens with any kind of anti-brown-skin resentment...i always thought it was the result of misguided attempts at developing an attitude of their own...kinda like a wannabe caulfield whose mumble is his lame attempt at rebellion types...

mebbe i'm wrong in the case of ur anecdote, but u sure u r not being too touchy and misconstruing?? coz teen and college kids are amongst the least racist kinds i met here..

Heartcrossings said...

Buck - agree with the teen-speak being incomprehensible in general. Even ABCD teens make no sense to me.

In this case though, it was a a little different. He knew perfectly well how to speak like a normal person but refused to do it.

I will wish for myself that I have miscontrued and was being touchy.

Chay said...

Hey Crossings,
IMHO...these teens usually can speak well...they know how to eb articulate. But then there is the cool factor that they 'need' to conform to. The mumbling is what makes them stand out as teens...annoys the adults...
That's what I heard from a teenage friend of mine once. :-))
I have to agree with Buck here. the rebellion, attitude etc is all about developing an identity.

Peppy said...

Hmm--wouldnt that be a typical bored-teenager syndrome than a racist one? speak entirely from a bay-area perspective here :-D

Anonymous said...

I can empathise and relate to your situation completely. There are many times I feel like a second class citizen in my own country due to the colour of my skin (the sad fact is that it doesn’t matter even if you speak like the locals and are born in that country). What you mentioned is a constant worry as it has had an affect on both my daughters who have been born and brought up outside of India.