Friday, July 18, 2008

Like, What Are You Saying?

A few weeks ago, my sister and I were at our parents' Japanese restaurant and we were having a conversation. An older gentleman who kind of reminded me of Peter O'Toole kept looking over at us. He was sitting, waiting for his to-go order. I thought that he wanted to jump into our conversation. My parents are very friendly with their customers, so they usually want to get to know us. My mother can make friends with anybody. She got that from my grandmother. My grandmother makes friends on the bus traveling from Princeton up to Manhattan.

"But Ama!" I said to her once. "You don't speak ANY English. How do you communicate?"

"Well," she said. "Sometimes these old American ladies sit next to me on the bus and they just start talking. By the time they're talking a few minutes, I feel too bad to let them know that I can't understand a word they're saying."

"How do they not pick up on this?"

"Every once in a while, I'll say 'uh-huh' and 'NO!' and that seems to do the trick."

Boy, those old ladies sure are easy to fool.

So this old guy kept staring at my sister and me and when his order was ready, he spend a good portion of time talking to my mother. My mother's English is not so good. I don't understand how someone who spent 5 years in Japan can speak Japanese fluently, but the same person, who comes to the United States and has been here about thirty years, still cannot read a Vogue magazine.

"What did that old guy say?" I asked my mom.

"Oh, he thought that I spent too much money on you girls because you like so many things."

"He did NOT say that!" my dad said. "What he SAID was that you girls say the work 'like' too often and you should be punished. Every time you say 'like' you should have to put a dollar in a can."

First of all, I do say "like" a lot and I can't help it. I don't know why or how I picked up this terrible habit and I blame that Catholic elementary school I attended. I'm lucky to have escaped without a Queens accent. Second of all, how DARE this old guy sit there and judge how I speak? I mean, English was my THIRD language, so even if I say "like" once in a while, cut me a break!

I think that every time that guy acts all judgey, he should have to put a dollar in a can!

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