Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lost in Twanslation

I was Christmas shopping in Walmart when I noticed a missed call alert on my cell phone and a voicemail message. I listened to the message and all I heard was a bunch of jibber jabber in an incredibly thick Asian accent. I couldn't understand a thing. So I listened again. Nothing. I listened a third time. Using all my supersonic accent encryption skills (a well-learned talent acquired from 5 years of working with Italians & Mexicans), I was able to decipher the words "store" pronounced on the message as "stwow," and "pick-up" pronounced "wick-wup."

Ah ha, eureka! I had ordered some Christmas presents on and was having them delivered straight to the store for pick-up (no shipping & handling costs that way). My order must be ready for pick-up. I had previous experience ordering my glitter-rific Save the Dates from, and I knew that there was an Asian lady named Rose who worked in the Photo Lab. She must have been the one that called me. So I headed for the Photo Lab. A lot of things went through my mind as I headed towards the back of the store: 1) I couldn't believe my good timing. I was already in Walmart when my shipment arrived, so no special trip needed. 2) How did I so geniusly decipher that impossible to understand voicemail message? I must be the Sherlock Holmes of voicemail messages. 3) Walmart really shouldn't allow Rose from the Photo Lab to do their customer service calls. She seems like a nice lady, but that accent really prevents her from being a capable outbound caller.

I made my way to the Photo Lab and it was a total madhouse. There were packages everywhere and the employees looked overworked and distressed. I didn't see Rose. She must be in the back making more inaudible phone calls. I stood in line and waited to claim my package. When it was my turn at the counter, they looked for my package, but couldn't find it. This did not alarm me at first because I knew from previous experience that while the Walmart Photo Lab did quality work, they were unorganized and unprepared. I remember when I picked up my Save the Dates, it was the slow off-season and it still took them about 15 minutes to locate my package. I spelled my name for them again, and they began to sort through the packages once more. They couldn't find it. They asked me if someone had called and told me it was ready? I told them that someone had called, but didn't go into anymore detail. They began another search for my missing package. That's when Rose walked out.

She must have sensed that another holiday package had gone AWOL because without speaking to any other co-workers first, she looked right at me and said, "How long ago did you order the package -- yesterday or a few days ago?"

Holy crap balls, she doesn't have an accent at all! All the Rs are Rs and not Ls. All the vowels are in the right place. No awkward pauses or mis-conjugated verbs. This was not my mystery Asian! Not at all!

Rose: Could you spell your name again? Is it L-A-C-E-Y? Or L-A-C-Y?

Oh my gosh, what do you do when you are caught in a moment of absolute racism? Do you fess up?

Me: Actually, it's L-A-C-Y H-A-L-L. If you can't find me under Hall, then try looking me up in your "Racist Customers Who Like to Stereotype and Generalize Minorities" file, I'm sure I'll be in there.

What was I supposed to tell these Walmart employees so desperately looking for my package? That I only have business dealings with two Asians -- Rose at the Photo Lab and the girl who does my eyebrows? Do I just fess up to my racism and get the hell out of there with shame carved onto my face like Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds? No, I got all Vegan Hippie Chick on them and said, "when the package wants to be found, it will be found. Just call me then."


I walked a few aisles down and listened to my message again, trying to place this Mystery Asian. I understood even less now then I did before. I gave up and just called the number.

Mystery Asian: Heywhoa.
Me: Hi, I was returning your call. This number was on my Caller ID.
Mystery Asian: Yow dwess iz (sic) tu fu, come no yow und wick-wup.
Me: I'm sorry, what?
Still Patient Mystery Asian: Yow come no yow und git yow dwess.
Me: Say what now?
Slightly Less Patient Mystery Asian: Yow dwess.
Me: One more time?
Totally Frustrated Mystery Asian: YOW WEEDING DWESS! YOW DWESS! Yow weeding dwess iz weady. Yow und yow mom come see. Yow und yow mom come see, and yow twy on so tin we fwix and mak pwefect fit fo yowz.
Me: wedding dress!

It was Betty from the wedding dress boutique! Yes Betty, my beloved Betty! How could I forget Betty. She had helped me and my mom so much when we searched for my perfect wedding dress. And her thick filipino accent and accompanying lisp had made our wedding dress experience so much more fun and joyful. Of course, it was Betty all along. How had I been so daft not to recognize Betty's famously unrecognizable speech? It seemed so obvious now.

Me: My wedding dress is ready? Oh geez, that's so exciting. I can't believe it. My wedding dress, it's seriously ready?
Betty: Yeah, that's what I said. It's weady.

(Fortune cookie pic taken, without permission, from