Saturday, May 24, 2008

Three Wine? WHUH?


Cheese? Aisle two.

In New York, people kinda live to give directions. We hover over the shoulders of lost tourists, who are confusedly gawking at their tour guides, just waiting for them to ask, because we know and WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW and that know-ledge MUST BE SHARED. And the help doesn't stop at directions, New Yorkers weigh in with all manner of opinions. Like if someone on the subway says Obama is up by 50 points, someone else might very wel lean over and correct them. If you are on the train at 11 in the morning with your resume and a suit on someone might very well come over and give you the name of a good t emp agency. So actually I guess it kinda goes beyong helpful to being a bit meddlesome, but the years I spent there just made me that kinda meddlesome gal.

So it can be so annoying (humbling?) to be here and have no idea where anything is and almost always be the person who needs help. However, yesterday at the supermarket I got my moment to get back to my roots. The summer holiday season has begun and the tourists are flooding in, clogging up the roads with their overstuffed campers, yelling at the waitstaff in a mix of their various mother tongues and English, and then resorting to the ur- language of gestures and facial expressions. Yesterday in SPAR's fine beverage aisle I spied a tourist couple asking some people for help with wine. I sauntered slowly over and then the resident Store English Speaker (we'll call her SES for short) then came over to help them. The tourist woman said "I want a dry white" and SES said (in Slovene) to another worker "Oh yeah they want three wines." and I rolled my eyes and cackled in my mind, but waited to listen a bit more and make sure I was on the money. The tourist woman again said "A wint with a dry taste." and I sprung into action. In Slovene, I told SES that the woman wanted a dry wine not three. I picked up a bottle and showed her "Suho suho, to pomeni dry. Ona hoče suho vino" (OK, no points for grammar).

SES seemed to think they were Germans because drei means three in German. What she failed to do was ask her self what in the world a Three Wine was. The SES thanked me profusely and the tourist man said "Merci" (I don't know where he thought he was") and I walked away self-satisfied. Good thing I was there. Saved the day, I did.

Related article: You got a problem with that?: Why do New Yorkers seem rude? A noted critic and essayist has a few ideas (Smithsonian Magazine, May 2008)

12 comments:

Lisa said...

Hehehe, I love moments like that. I directed someone to the bankomat on Slovenska and in my ultimate moment of triumph, directed a (non-Zagreb) Croatian to the train station from Dolac in central Zagreb. Yeah, it was an easy set of directions, but she never guessed that I wasn't a local! :)

Tina. said...

Camille, kudos! And you deserve all points for grammar! I'm impressed with how quickly you're learning the language.

Love the NYC article. When I visited a few years ago, I was expecting people to be rude (stereotypes, stereotypes), but the opposite happened. Everyone was nice and helpful. When I got off the subway at the Lower-East Side and pulled out my map, I was immediately surrounded by a few people eager to give me directions. It's a cliche, but it's hard not to <3 NYC.

Felicity said...

Good you are picking up the language quickly!
Great article about NYC!

Camille Acey said...

@Lisa- Good for you! Sedi pet! ;)

@Tina - Wow, grammar points too? I was certain there was a declension I missed there...As for the speed of learning the language, I tell you it is the Cap's mama. She LOVES to talk and frankly I LOVE to know what she is talking about. So I just going running along!

@Felicity - Glad you enjoyed the article. I laughed all the way through. It was SO true!

dr. filomena said...

C, I'm so proud of you. You are a living proof that Slovene is not impossible to learn and I'm continuously impressed by your pronunciation.

Love the sedi pet reference, naturally, hahaha :-D

Camille Acey said...

@dr. f - thanks for the kind words! i had a rough time chatting with someone yesterday and it really shook my faith. it's always two steps forward and one step back with the language but i'm still going!

as for sedi pet, i have to show the teacher that i am learning my lessons well! ;)

Anthrophile said...

Well done, you! (Everybody else already said the other stuff. :-D)

Vakker Kvinne said...

Oh no you didn't post a phot of Popeyes....I'd kill for some dirty rice today...

Camille Acey said...

@Vakker- Ha ha! I didn't even notice the Popeye's there! I am like the only black person whose never eaten there. Shame on me.

BlackGirl said...

Thank gosh someone I know is getting the hang of her local language! Way to go! :)

Camille Acey said...

@blackgirl - thanks! i think it really helps that i live in a small town. i think it is a struggle in a capital city with all the hip/tourist accomodating English speaking people, and sometimes I understand why people don't even bother.

Ales said...

Heh, I always listen to people like that (the SES), and then help them when I see it's too much :D