Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Don’t Speak English

When I was in high school, my friends and I didn’t have a lot of extra spending money so we were always thinking of things to do that wouldn’t cost us money. One of our favorite things to do was to go to the mall. It was big, air conditioned and there were plenty of things to see. We rarely bought anything except a diet soft drink, but we had fun.

One of our favorite places to visit was one of those small novelty stores that sell glow in the dark jewelry, bumper sticker with pithy phrases and mood rings. My favorite part of the stores was the button display. It was one of those turning displays and it sat up on the front counter – one of those displays designed to catch your eye while you were making your purchase. They scream “It’s only fifty cents. Buy me.”

I have a collection of buttons from my high school and college days. They range from silly to serious – “I Only Date My Own Species” to “Clinton/Gore For President”. There is one button that I’ll probably always keep – “I Don’t Speak English.” When I saw this button I just had to have it. It seemed like the thing to have – after all quite a few people that I met seemed to assume that I didn’t speak English anyway.

So, when I happened to buy it, I was with my friend T. T was always the one that was willing to test the waters. She wanted me to put it on and see how many people would really think I didn’t speak English. Since it didn’t require me to do anything except keep my mouth shut, I went along with it. I wore it prominently on the front of my shirt and I was pretty amazed at how many people stopped my friend to ask her where I was from. I made a purchase and the cashier would talk to T instead of me. We had a blast that day. Every so often, I had to say something in my mid-west accent for the shock factor. I will probably remember that day forever.

At the time that we did it, it was all fun. Now, I know that it represents how often we take things at face value. We look at what we see in front of us and forget to look a little deeper.

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