Just a trim, please

May 30, 2008

Here’s the latest Bowl of Cheese podcast. And here’s the MP3 file.

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When I went to get my haircut today, I was thrilled because there wasn’t a line. I stopped at the desk, gave my name and my butt had barely grazed the seat of the chair when I heard my name called out by an attractive Asian woman.

I followed her to the chair and explained what I wanted done. She replied in accented and broken English that I had some trouble following, that she understood. I sat down and smiled at her, worrying that the haircut I ordered might not be the one I ended up with.

This fear was based in part on an experience I enjoyed as a child. During high school my family employed a Vietnamese woman as a housekeeper and for the entire two-year period she worked at the house, I didn’t understand a word she said.

Figuring that my mother was better with accents and languages, I didn’t dwell on this communcation gap and went about my oblivious teenage life.

Well, my assumption was wrong and was manifested one afternoon when my mother was trying to coordinate a ride home from school for my sister.

Cindy was in Braintree, I believe, and my mother was running late (could have been coincidentally at the hair dresser, but who knows). So in an attempt to get a message to my sister, my mother called the house. The exchange went like this…

Mum: Hello, Luk Twan. This is Margo.

LT: Margo not here, goodbye.

My mother called back twice and got the same response, and Cindy was stranded in Braintree for a while. Nobody died or even looked foolish because their haircut came out horribly, but it was a lesson in how small the world had become.

And that was 1980 or so. Now the boundaries of all cultures have diminished and I’ve found that the minorities in most urban settings are my people – the Caucasians. Further, I guess I’m not truly Caucasian but the boxes on all those government forms don’t have a box for: mother of Scottish and Western European descent and father with Russian Jewish origins, tans easily, hazel eyes, lots of freckles.

The melting pot has really started to bubble with streaks of every country in the mix. We’re a country that now has Spanish as the fastest growing language and legislators are constantly trying to find ways to address immigration issues.

From my soapbox I regularly say that if you’re not here legally, then you are here illegally. There’s no argument with that. I don’t care about your intent or the red tape you have to deal with, get it done. The issue of citizenship is black and white…it has clear boundaries and rules and everyone should obey them or be bounced out.

And I used to feel as strongly about language. I would say that if a person is in this country, they should speak the official language of the country. But now I feel differently and it’s because I’m not as smart as I thought I was.

During four trips to Europe over the past few years, I’ve had to deal with being an interloper who doesn’t speak the native tongue. I struggled with the language and found out firsthand how difficult it can be when people don’t understand you.

So I’ve softened a bit on language. As long as we can communicate, and it can be done with hand gestures or pictographs or even grunts and screeches, I’ll be happy.

But if you’re a crimigant, get out. I might sound like a redneck in this rant, but that’s because I’ve seen too many people here illegally and living off the government and the taxes paid by people like Luc Twan and my new favorite hairstylist.

She and I might not speak the same language, but we understand each other just fine. And might I say that my hair looks marvelous.

By the way, the title of this post says “Just a trim please.”

More to come…