Angel was barely older than me and hired a few weeks before I had been, but after a few months of working at Discount Store, she was promoted to Key Holder – a coveted position. While I ran my butt off doing returns, cleaning up bodily fluids and straightening up the store she stayed on register the entire time even when there were no customers to check out. After closing she stayed at the front to print out the numbers from the day while I rushed around cleaning up before we had to go. It wasn’t much, but it was a cushy job compared to what I was doing at the time.

The Holiday season rolled around and we hired tons on temporary workers, none of which spoke English. I’ve said before that I live in a small town in California. I’ve seen people speak other languages – Russian, Italian, Portuguese – but the primary second (or possibly first!) language of California is Spanish. I suck at Spanish. I’ve taken 3 years of it and I can barely ask where the hell the bathroom is. This meant that I couldn’t really communicate with my new coworkers and I was left out of many an inside joke.

Unfortunately, the majority of our shoppers at Discount Store were soley Spanish speakers and they expected everyone to speak their language. Even more unfortunately, my dad was half Mexican, half Native American, so I don’t look like a white girl. This leads many people to think I can at least stutter out a sentence in Spanish and most assume I’m fluent. No bueno cuando tu…como se dice “assume”?

One day I was rushing around cleaning the racks and a little old lady started motioning me over. She pointed at something high on a wall (because of course we had clothing racks to the ceiling that required a hook to bring things down) and let out what sounded like one long word, but which I think was supposed to be an entire sentence.

“Lo seinto, pero no hablo Espanol.” I said, emphasizing “Espanol” so it sounded like “Es-PAN-yoll”. The worse you pronounce things, the more they believe you can’t speak the language.

Then shit hit the fan. She started screaming at me like I had insulted her honor by calling her the lowest level of a whore or had tried to cut off her dog’s tail for funsies. After calling over my manager, he took care of everything and explained to me later that she thought I was faking it! According to the old lady, people in my generation understand Spanish but are too lazy to speak it.

Nope, I’m just not capable of more than one language lady.

Little did I know that one encounter would make my manager see me in a different light…a bad light….

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