A guest got mad the other day. Nothing terribly unusual in that, to be honest: even on vacation, some people just want to find something about which they can be upset.
No, what makes this event stick out in my mind is what the guest got pissed about. This person was mad because the cashier she was dealing with has a strong accent and is still working on her English.
I was nice, let me emphasize that. I very nicely implied just what a jack-ass this guest was, and very nicely got them the hell out of the store as fast as I could.
I carry bear spray whenever I hike – I may have to start carrying tourist-spray when I work.
I should probably expand on why this irritates me:
Roughly 40% of the seasonal staff up here (and in any national park) are here on what’s called a J-1 visa. Now, a J-1 is not a normal work visa, it is an educational and cultural visa. It is for kids from other countries to come and work in the US to improve their English, and to learn about our people and our culture. It also ain’t cheap…these kids spend a lot to come here for this.
Sometimes what they learn isn’t all that great.
The cashier in question happens to be from Taiwan – she not only is a college grad, but happens to be one of the hardest and best workers I’ve ever seen. I would trust this girl with any job I could dream up and know she would exceed the goals I set.
I’m good at languages. I’m very good. I speak several, and can make my way in a few more. But in none of those languages am I perfectly fluent, in none can I hide my American accent. Yet never have I had any random, tourist asshat get pissed at me because I struggled from time to time.
Well, except in Spain…they made of fun of me because I speak Mexican Spanish, not “real” Spanish. Fuck Spain.
Err, never mind…back to the point.
We, as the US (both nation and people), have prided ourselves on the worth and strength of our attempt at a meritocracy, and tried to build that on the equality that all humans bring to the table regardless of their origins.
Believe that many of us might, but we sure have a shitty way of showing it…
Every single person should have to spend a few months living in another country, learning another language and culture. It might sound trite, but that really does change you: changes your outlook, changes your thought patterns, and sure as hell changes the boundaries of what really matters to you.