Thursday, October 22, 2009

Language Barrier

I stopped to fill up my van with gas the other day. I pulled up to see this annoying sign: "Please pay first." That really irks me because, really - how many people know how much gas they are going to pump before they pump it? Unless you happen to be seriously obsessive compulsive and fill your car with gas when it gets to the exact same level on the gauge every single time, and you pay attention to the gas prices with perfect accuracy, then it's really impossible to predict how much you're going to spend, right? So, my choices would be A) walk in with a $100 bill, hand it to the cashier and tell him I'll be back for the change after I pump, because it always takes more than $50 to fill that sucker up or B) give him my credit card and trust that he will keep it in a good, safe place and not overcharge me, etc. etc. etc. Sorry, neither one of these options sits well with me.

I walked inside, brow furrowed and muttering under my breath - did I mention I hadn't had my coffee yet? I told the attendant that I didn't know how much I was going to spend on gas. His reply sounded something like, "Wot bum?"

Huh? Is this guy calling me a bum because I don't want to pay first???

Growing a little defensive, I said, "Excuse me?"

Again, he said, "Wot bum?"

Ohhh, "What pump!" I motioned to the pump where my van was sitting since I had forgotten to look at the pump number. He kindly turned it on for me.

Before walking out to pump my gas, I asked, "Do you have batteries?" (I thought it might help him to know that I was planning to come back in. . . .) He responded, "Wot sis?"

Again, I was stumped. Was he saying, "What's this?" Good heavens, man, you don't know what batteries are?

"BATTERIES", I said, enunciating the word very clearly. "FOR ELECTRONICS . . . ." Meanwhile, I was making bizarre shapes in the air that didn't resemble any kind of battery-operated device I've ever seen.

He looked at me like the moron I was and repeated, "Wot sis?"

Ohhhhh, "What size?"

"Uhh. . . .uhh, 9Volt," I said, sheepishly.

After filling my van, I made sure to be very friendly and cheerful since this guy had put up with my idiocy.

Public service announcement: If I ever encounter you and don't understand what you are saying because you are from any place outside of the Mid-Michigan area and have a non-Ingham-county accent, please be patient with me. I am not trying to insult you, nor am I culturally insensitive. I probably just haven't had my coffee yet.


  1. Oh, this reminds me so much of one of my nightmares. I was taking three girls to a dance competition in St. Clair Shores and we were headed for another dancer's house late on a Saturday night. After 9 is when we hit 496 and at 9 on that night was when 496 was CLOSING DOWN. It also happened to be raining torrents. Dark, rainy, shuttled off into parts of DETROIT. I had no clue where I was and no clue how to get where I was going. So - what do you do? You turn off and stop at a gas station, right? Right. Only I was not in English-speaking territory. But, rather than offend, or admit I had NO IDEA what people were saying, I'd nod pleasantly, get in the van and drive to the next exit and try again there. I finally (about six gas stations later) found some middle eastern person who I could [barely] understand and somehow got to my destination about midnight. Quite the memory!

  2. LOL- I had a near-disaterous mix up in Virginia over the word TIME vs TOWN.

  3. I have been in that situation MANY times!


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