Would You Like some English with Your Burger?

Published:  September 30, 2007

From my standpoint, I'll tell you one of the problems with modern-day immigration: our society does not mandate learning English.

About an hour ago I drove to my local White Castle restaurant. A female worker took my order and was gathering it up. In further brief order-related conversation with her at the window, itself, I noticed that she was not really speaking, leading to the presumption that she didn't speak English. The youngish woman took my debit card and went in the back with it; I know this because I observed her coming out of the back, card in hand.

Two scenarios suggested themselves: either she had to go in the back to process the card, or, she had an irresistible impulse to use the toilet, and went in the back to do so. Fearing the latter, and fearing further that because of her need to return to the front immediately she may have rushed in and out of the toilet without washing, or proper washing, I wanted to confirm that she went in the back to process the card and not use the toilet. However, given her reasonably apparent inability to speak English, I was somewhat uncertain whether to even bother attempting to ask her.

I didn't have the chance to ponder these options further, however, because when I asked the woman to better fill my medium Coke, a male stepped in to find out exactly what it was that I wanted. I explained it to him, but he was not understanding me--this man obviously did not speak English well-or at all--either. 0 for 2 now. Finally, after several permutations of my explanation that the cup in my view was not filled enough, the man seemed to understand, and it was him--not her--that added more of the sugary poison to my cup, as requested (I was under no illusion whatever about the dreadful health effects of the White Castle meal I was about to consume).

I had already been handed my bag (or "sack," in White Castle-ease) of burgers and fries and my chocolate shake, when the big lug at the window handed me my Coke. I tried to proffer my question to him about processing the credit card: "She had to go in the back to process the credit card?" I asked. A rather simple and straightforward question.

This big, moronic oaf, however, just looked at me; it had now become immediately and conclusively clear that this man did not understand English. What should have been a satisfactory and easy opportunity for me to allay my concern about the young window server having gone to the toilet--had itself gone into the toilet, and never come back out. There was legitimacy to my proposed inquiry, I believe, because it did involve something of a health and safety issue-at least as perceived by the customer, in this case, me.

On an issue unrelated to the previous, principal one, but legitimate in its own right in further illustration of the incompetence of the workers at fast-food restaurants, is the manner in which this man executed my request for a better-filled soda cup. Nor is he the first fast-food worker to do this: he overfilled the cup. I don't believe this had anything to do with immigrants, but was just run-of-the-mill stupidity; a depth of idiocy that I am confident that the most average American fast-food worker could achieve.

For this same reason, concern that the staff couldn't speak English, the other day when I needed my pants dry-cleaned and my suit jacket pressed in a hurry for an interview and the Asian-run dry cleaner about sixty-seconds from my house was the most convenient way to do it, I refrained from this option and went elsewhere. If these people can't speak English, I reasoned, why should I assume that they can read English, which is to say, why should I assume that they can read the containers, drums, bottles, or spray cans of cleaners, spotters, degreasers, or other chemical materials that they are using--on my clothing?


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