So, I was at Taco Bell for lunch (because nothing is more American than mystery meat and cheese in a flour tortilla). I waited patiently in line, using my time productively by deciding how I wanted my tortilla folded, and when it was my turn to order, I stepped up to the register.
The cashier did not greet me—strike one.
Unphased, I said, “Uh, yes, I would like a number three—soft tacos—with a Pepsi, please.” (Whenever I order, I always make sure to specify all the choices so the waiter doesn’t have to ask a bunch of questions. It lets them know that I appreciate blue-collar Americans and shortens the wait time for other diners.)
The cashier punched in my order, still saying nothing—strike two.
So I asked for my total. Instead of speaking English, as I would expect at any all-American business establishment, the cashier started waving her hands and fingers at me! (Strike three!)
Infuriated, I yelled for the manager. I had to wait one entire minute (nearly two percent of my lunch break!) for her to get the manager’s attention and talk to him with her hands. God knows what she was telling him about me since she refused to speak English, but I’m sure it was something insulting about my mother.
He walked over with a smirk on his face (I knew she said something about me!), and asked if there was something wrong.
“Something wrong?!” I said politely. “Your cashier refused to speak English to me when I ordered!”
“Um, sir,” the manager replied, “she’s deaf.”
“Yes, she certainly is to me at this point. I don’t know what exactly she said to you, but I know when I’m insulted.”
“No, sir, you misunderstood me. She’s deaf … as in she can’t hear anything. She uses sign language to speak.”
“Excuse me?” I said. “What country do we live in?”
“Um, America?” he asked, probably high on marijuana cigarettes.
“The United States of America,” I said to correct him. “And here in the yoo-ess-AY, we speak English, just as we have since Columbus landed here!”
“Columbus …?” (Oh yeah: he was high.)
“Yes, Peter Columbus! Founder of America! Landed at Plymouth Rock and ate turkey with Indians once they learned to speak! freakin’! English!”
I was appalled at his lack of common history knowledge, but what can you expect from someone who flips chalupas all day? (That’s not to say that American food service workers are stupid, just that I’m a lot smarter than them.)
I would have recommended some night classes to supplement his G.E.D., when I noticed the non-English-speaking cashier counting out someone else’s change.
“Oh, for the love of– It’s bad enough she doesn’t speak English, but now she’s counting with her hands full! That’s disgusting!”
“Sir, I’m very sorry that you’ve had a bad lunch experience here at Taco Bell, so let me give you your Number Three on the hou–“
“No, I’ve lost my appetite!” I politely countered. “I’ll come back when you hire English speakers!”
“And you!” I said to the cashier. “Learn to speak ENG-LISH, or go back home to … Deaf-hee-co!” To make sure she understood me, I used the only sign I learned in high school. That’s just how I was raised, even though I shouldn’t have to speak any of her language.
As the above recount of my harrowing experience illustrates, I am a smart and courageous American patriot. But how many of us are like me? Not enough, I’m afraid, but you can help change that. I challenge you to ignore that nagging seed of “politeness” inside of you and take a stand when this happens to you. After all, is it more polite to let someone know they have mustard on their face, or to “politely” say nothing and let them walk into that big board meeting?
Deaf people have to learn that they live in the United States of America now. That’s right: America, as in English-speaking. They might be able to get away with speaking their signo-languageo at home, but if they expect to hold down jobs, they need to speak our language at work.
Some of you bleeding-hearts out there are probably saying to yourselves, “But, Rick, they were born deaf! We can’t force them to speak English, because they’re hard-working and make great tacos for cheap wages.”
To which I reply, yeah? Well, what about that Miss America from a few years back? Sure, she butchered America’s native tongue with her hideous accent, but at least she made the effort. She knew she was running for Miss (United States of) America, so she’d better speak English to get the job. (And that’s why she’s one of the good ones.) Besides, if these deaf people are so hard-working, then they can work hard to speak English!
We can keep paying them the same low wages, though. I mean, they’re still deaf, so they won’t hear us shortchanging them.
Read my lips, deaf people (and don’t pretend you can’t): speak English or go home!