Babble in the Melting Pot

Chinese Take OutMy friend relayed this to me via email while watching Saturday’s hockey game.

A few friends are coming over for the hockey game – those few who don’t mind sitting on the floor. We decided to meet here, and I’d provide food in the form of Chinese take-out.
(ring ring)
Hi, I’d like to place an order for pick-up.
No delivery.
No, I want to pick it up.
Only take out.
Ok, I’ll get take out.
Your number?
555-2555 – (not the real number)
No, 5-5-5-two-5-5-5
Ok, what you want?
Um, do you still have dinner for two, and combos like that?
What soup?
No, dinner combos.
Yes, what soup?
Can you tell me what they come with?
Wonton soup?
No, I don’t want soup, I want to know what your dinners are.  (blood pressure rising)
Soup and egg roll.
Ok… what else?
You don’t order before?
Well, yes, I have, but I don’t have a menu in front of me. Can you just tell me what they are, please?
Ok, wonton soup. What else?
NO, what is with your dinners?
I just want to know what I get.
Soup and egg roll.
And what else?
Wonton soup.
Never mind, I’m calling somewhere else.

(ring ring)
Hi, thank you for calling Cappelli’s, what can I do for you?
Hi, I’d like to place an order to pick up.
May I have your number please?
Is this Kathy?
Ok, what would you like?
A sheet pizza with cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms, a sheet Clougher, a chicken salad with house dressing…
Anything else?
Yes, also an antipasto with Italian dressing, please.
Anything else?
Nope, that’s it.
Ok, that’ll be about twenty minutes.
Great, thanks. Oh — Fred will be picking it up.
Okay, thank you.

This is a story about assimilation.  The U.S. is the greatest melting pot in the world, but as a result we sometimes struggle with the limitations of that assimilation borne of stubbornness, nostalgia or mental agility.  In this case, the proprietor of the Chinese restaurant probably should not have been answering the phone if he were trying to sustain business from most of his potential customer pool.  It’s okay if he does not want to become Americanized or wants to hang on to as much native heritage as possible, but wouldn’t it be a little easier on everyone (and himself) if he learned the language?

The ironic part is that my friend speaks Chinese and could likely have carried the conversation in the proprietor’s native language; but she strongly resists falling back on her native upbringing.  She wants to be assimilated.  That she chose to give up on Chinese food Saturday night and settled for Italian struck me as an act of principle.  Lucky for her that foods from both cultures have nicely assimilated into the American food scene.



One Response to Babble in the Melting Pot

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