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Monday, November 8, 2010

Fact-Because I have an accent, I am incompetent

I went to the Intermarchee today, to buy some toiletries. This is not the first time I've been to this store, nor will it be the last. I probably average several times a month, depending if I'm cooking more, or if I get really bored. So, I would say I've been to the intermarchee about 50 times. On top of that, I am well rehearsed in paying at both the normal desk with a cashier, as well as the self serve scanner.

Not to mention, even if I was not, I am a reasonably intelligent person, and capable of figuring out my way through the check out.

One problem--I speak French with an accent. The lines were ridiculously long, and because I had only 5 items, I went through to the self check out part. An employee (with a bad dye job, but that's neither here nor there..) approached me and said something.

"Pardon?" I said back. She said basically, "How are you paying?" in French, I said "Oh, avec carte," with card. She said, in French, the carte blue isn't working, you can only pay with cash. Two seconds later in English she said, "Only cash." I responded in French, but I was annoyed. IF I WANT YOU TO SPEAK ENGLISH TO ME I WILL ASK YOU TO. I CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT SHE SAID AND RESPONDED.

To add infuriating insult to injury, as I scanned my items and threw them in anger (okay, so I have a temper) she was basically reading over my shoulder and PUSHED THE BUTTONS ON THE SCREEN FOR ME LIKE I COULDN'T DO IT MYSELF.

Not only have I been here, as I said many times, I also must speak a little bit of French to have conversed with you. AND. THE. SCREEN. HAS. PICTURES.

I was so insulted I was speechless. As she finished up the checkout for me (I will remind everyone that this was SELF checkout, but the little foreign girl apparently can't handle it). I said loudly and clearly. "Oui, je parle fran├žais." I don't think she understood how irritated I was but lets think here.

1) We are in O-town. If I didn't speak French, where would I come from? There are no train stations, I clearly have access to a car, so I clearly live locally. I'm not a tourist who got on a wrong train, ended up in Villenes, walked to the market and decided to buy hair conditioner.

2) I'm talking to you in French. It is really insulting to me to talk to me in English, because many cases, as was this one, I must have looked too stupid to speak more than one language. The French tell me it is to be polite, and perhaps this is cultural. But I find it extremely rude.

3) I am an adult. One who has grown up during the technological age. I can use a touch screen check out, I have been for years. Save your help for the French-speaking older people who might get confused.

Of course, this isn't so much an isolated event. We get someone to come do the ironing, apparently on Fridays. So some guy shows up on Friday, and I answer and he says something about coming to pick up the ligne, or laundry. Right, S didn't mention it, but I figured I could figure it out. He comes in, with his (and this is important) 14 year old daughter. He asks me something, and I think he is from a different part of France, because I don't understand. I say, I'm sorry, I didn't understand. Theeeen the English comes. It sounded something like this "Uhh today, laundry, uhh tomorrow bring when?"

Okay. I am the last person on the planet to insult someone who speaks a language poorly. I get misunderstood on the regular, but again, we are living in France. I don't expect people to talk to me in English, as we know, I prefer that they do not. The exception, of course, is if we already have a history of English speaking, or if they speak English fluently.

This guy, clearly didn't have a background in the language, but, it got worse. As I stood there staring at them, wishing he would just talk to me in French, his KID started chiming in "uhh, when give?". Jesus Christ. I finally put a stop to this, and ask him to repeat what he said in French, because he spoke to fast for me to understand. I also pointed out that I had about five thousand things going on in the house, and I was a little overwhelmed. He kept asking my when I wanted to laundry back, and I kept explaining that I didn't know and that I would ask S to call him. He continued to try and speak to me in English. At least his daughter butt out.

I'm thinking about making a t-shirt that says
"Je ne peux pas apprendre le fran├žais si vous me parlez en anglais,"

Of course, it would be grammatically correct.

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