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    Category: Language & Words

    The Name Was Not A Piece Of Cake

    | WI, USA | Coworkers, Food & Drink, Language & Words

    (Like many other bakeries, ours takes custom orders by asking for a last name that the customer can pick up by. Also of note, I work only the very early morning shifts, so I see very little of our customer base and take very few orders myself.)

    Customer: “Good morning. Pick up for a cake for [very Polish-sounding last name that starts with a K].”

    Me: “Sure! Just a moment please.”

    (I go to the cooler to check for the cake, but there is only one order, and it is for a [very obviously English last name starting with an H]. I return to the customer.)

    Me: “I’m very sorry sir, but I can’t seem to find the cake. Could it possibly have been listed under any other name?”

    (The customer’s eyes go wide while I speak.)

    Customer: “No, it would only be under [Polish Name].”

    (I decide to check the orders that have been finished and marked as received, and there’s a similar Polish name starting with an A. I take the order by the customer, in case someone in his family had picked it up earlier.)

    Me: “Could it possibly be [Other Polish Name]?”

    Customer: “No, no it has to be [Polish Name].”

    (While I start to speak again, my coworker comes up to see what’s going on, and the customer seems to recognize her. She quickly walks away, but then comes back with the lone cake from the cooler and stops me in mid-sentence.)

    Coworker: “Is the cake for a Harry and Larry?” *looking at the decorations written on the cake*

    Customer: *joking with her* “Well, it’s supposed to be for a Larry and Harry, but I suppose that will do!” *he takes the cake with satisfaction and heads off*

    Me: “…what?”

    Coworker: “Oh, I took his order the other day, and I recognized him. What was the problem?”

    Me: “He asked for an order with a very obviously a Polish name starting with a K that I can’t even pronounce or begin to spell. That is NOT the name written on the order form.”

    Coworker: “Oh… was I anywhere close?”

    Me: “…nowhere near.”

    Go Native Or Go Home

    | Oklahoma City, OK, USA | At The Checkout, Bigotry, History, Language & Words, Top

    (I’m in line at a popular discount retail store, with two people ahead of me. The women at the head of the line is clearly new to English, and while she has a thick accent and struggles, she does her best to speak to the cashier in English, even though he rolls his eyes and makes her repeat everything several times. Finally, she is able to leave. As soon as she’s out of earshot:)

    Cashier: “Ugh, they shouldn’t be allowed in our stores until they learn our language.”

    (The man ahead of me says several things in another language.)

    Cashier: “Oh, man, not another one. This is America. Learn the language.”

    Customer: “Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed you’d learned Cherokee, since you’re so big on people learning the local language. My mistake.”

    (The cashier turned bright red and didn’t say another word through the transaction.)

    Aggravating But Also Aware

    | TX, USA | Employees, Language & Words, Top

    (A number of years ago I was doing some service work for a particularly obnoxious client. I had done work for him before, and he was always obnoxious.)

    Me: “And here’s your invoice.”

    Customer: “I noticed this on previous invoices and wondered what the 10% A & I charge was for.”

    Me: “That’s an ‘aggravation and irritation’ charge for having to deal with your sorry personality.”

    Customer: “I can understand that. You do good work and are reliable, so keep charging that and I’ll keep calling you.”

    Can Only Be Repaired By A True Master

    | Brisbane, QLD, Australia | Coworkers, Language & Words, Technology

    (I’m walking through the corridor of my office, when I see a colleague wrestling with the paper tray on one of the printers.)

    Me: “Having some trouble with the printer?”

    Colleague: “It’s a bit tricky.”

    Me: “Ah, yes. The ancient art of fu-jitsu.”

    Watch Your Tongues

    | Brazil | Employees, Language & Words, Top, Tourists & Travel

    (In this story I am the employee. I’m currently working a football stadium in Brazil, and I’m the only multi-lingual employee in my area, as it is not a huge game. I’m waiting, in a food area that has a phone, to escort a disabled English fan to their seat, and I am making conversation with the Portuguese manager and employee.)

    Manager: *in Portuguese* “When are you expecting the call?”

    Me: “In a couple of minutes. Then I’ll head down and take them up.”

    Employee: “Do you need anything?”

    Me: “Nah, I’ve got a key.”

    (Suddenly a group of obviously Spanish speaking fans show up and start working through the menu together.)

    Manager: “I hate to ask, but our Spanish speaking server is on a break. Could you…?”

    Me: “Oh! No problem!” *switching to Spanish to take the group’s orders* “How can I help you all?”

    Fan #1: *in Spanish* “Thank you! Yes, I think we have it all figured out. We’ll need two [sodas] and three [other type of sodas], and…”

    (Just then, the phone rings. I explain to them I’ll need a second as I’m supposed to be escorting a disabled fan up. They’re very understanding and tell me to take my time.)

    Me: *in English* “Hello?”

    Caller: “Hello! Yes, I’m down here with my daughter. We requested disabled seating.”

    Me: “Oh! Yes, I’ll be there to escort you. Give me a minute to walk down.”

    Caller: “No, no, no! Sorry, see, we’re having trouble finding our way, and instead of bothering another employee we hoped you would help us with directions? We’re at the red entrance.”

    Me: “Yes, I know where you are. See, first… Uh, I just remembered I’m working with someone right now.”

    Caller: “Oh, we’ll wait.”

    Me: *to the fans, in Spanish* “All right, sorry. What else do you need?”

    (He starts to list off his order, but I continue returning to the phone. Finally I get the disabled group to the meeting point.)

    Manager: *in Portuguese* “Do you need to go now?”

    Me: *in Spanish, which he does not understand* “Let me finish their order.” *to fans, in English* “Okay, so let me finish you off and we’ll get your food.”

    Fan #1: *in English, struggling slightly* “Uh… three bag of chips. Please.”

    Me: “Why are you speaking English?”

    Fan #1: *laughing* “Because you are!”

    (The phone rings from security that I need to go escort the group now.)

    Me: *on phone, in Portuguese* “You’re ready? Good. I’ll be down momentarily.”

    (I finally notice what I’ve just done.)

    Me: *in English* “You understood none of that.”

    Caller: *laughing* “Absolutely none!”

    (We all had a good laugh about it and I quickly finished the group’s orders and escorted the disabled fan to her seat. My coworkers still joke about my ‘two language limit.’)


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