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Little Old Ladies Magnet

My friend Anna from Barcelona once told me about the several occasions she has brought friends from all over the world to meet her mom. Upon meeting the new visitors, Anna’s mom, in all her naive friendliness, tries to strike up a conversation with the strangers, all in Catalan. Confusion sets in on the strangers’ faces, and she realizes they do not understand her. So she speaks again. Louder. Slower. In Catalan. When Anna explains that these people don’t understand a word of Catalan, she gets it. And then she speaks again. Louder. Slower. In Spanish, which they don’t understand either.

Which brings me back to NYC.

As per a previous post, I often get asked for directions. Amongst those who have approached me have been many very old Asian ladies. The story is always similar. First they gently tap on my shoulder. After a long stare confirming that I am, indeed, Asian, they proceed to ask me questions. It’s always in some foreign Asian language. And I never understand what they’re saying. So I smile and shake my head to indicate that I don’t understand. But they try again. Pointing, speaking louder, speaking slower. In Vietnamese, in Japanese, in Cambodian, in Cantonese, but you see, never in English. I’ve resigned to always nodding and agreeing with them. My acquiesce to questions I do not have a clue about might result in a Vietnamese lady ending up going the wrong direction on the subway and landing in Queens (as it happened to me once) or a Cantonese lady getting callous feet after being sent in the opposite direction of her destination, etc.

In all cases I will most understandably accept these gentle, friendly, senior citizens’ rage, whose only mistake was to ask me for directions. But really, whatcha gonna do?

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