Posted on March 11, 2012 by The Bay Area Brit
There’s a scene in the film The Terminator when the human-looking robot played by the former Governor of California is asked an inappropriate question. From his point of view, there is a computerized choice of options on how to respond. This is it:
I don’t think I’m special when I say that I do this also. Years of working in the service industry condition one to respond politely and appropriately, even if the question or demand made is inappropriate.
“Hey, bartender, who have I got to wave my dick at to get another drink around here?”
a) “Sorry about that, sir. Same again?”
b) “It sounds like you’ve had enough, pal.”
c) “You’re cut off. Time to go.”
d) “Why don’t you shove it up your gaping ass, you rude motherfucker.”
One evening last week, after I had downed a couple of beers, I went to the Safeway to get some veggies. Before I could shop however, I needed to make a run to the supermarket’s restroom. The bathroom was occupied, and so while waiting, I checked my phone for hilarious Facebook updates. Then I heard a voice about 10 feet behind me say, “Hey, are you going to go number 1 or number 2?”
I ignored the man, partly because I felt 100% sure he must have been talking to his four-year old child.
Again came the question: “Hey, you, wearing the glasses, I said are you going to go number 1 or number 2?”
I slowly turned around.
There was no 4 year-old child, just a 40 year-old man wearing paint-splattered overalls and headphones. Much like The Terminator I quickly reviewed my brain’s “Response Options.”
Because of the nature of the man’s personal question, and the aggressiveness with which he asked, I weighed my responses carefully:
a) “Number I or Number 2??? What are you still in Kindergarten?”
b) “I’m going to take a piss. I’m British, and we don’t do the other thing in public toilets.”
c) “That’s really none of your business.”
d) “Oh my God, I’m going Number 2 and I’m going to destroy that toilet. Pretty sure I shouldn’t have eaten sushi from what looked like a Taco Truck that had ‘condemned by The Health Department’ warning stickers all over it.”
I went with c).
Which, under the circumstances, was a fairly well moderated response.
He came towards me and past me and stood by the bathroom door and said, “No way. If you’re going to go Number 2. I’m going first.”
This was quickly becoming like a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm: Awkward, confrontational, and the slight chance that fists might get thrown.
I said, “Take it easy, I’m just going to pee.”
The bathroom door opened and I claimed my right to occupy the restroom. As promised, I spent my time in there relieving my bladder. As I washed my hands, I wondered what was going to happen as I left; I could hear the guy badmouthing me to someone else.
“The guy in there’s got a smart mouth. Typical Cracker.”
“Cracker?” I thought. What the hell?
The man that confronted me was as white as I am…okay, I’m British, obviously he was not QUITE as white as I am.
I opened the door and he was slightly blocking the doorway and said, “Oh, can I use it now?”
“Sure,” I said. ”Enjoy,”
“I will,” he said.
I headed to the produce aisle in a state of stunned semi-amusement. Are we done? Or when I go and stand in line with my veggies to pay, will he try and push past me and insist that if I’m buying broccoli he’d better go first?
Thankfully I didn’t see him again.
Afterwards, I kind of felt emboldened for standing up for myself. The guy was obviously a bully, and years of service industry conditioning has made me kowtow to demanding people.
In situations like this, I invariably walk away thinking “I just wish I’d said…….this…….or that…..” Or later I would likely think of a response that would have been a clever and brilliant put-down.
But setting the man straight and letting him know that what he was asking was inappropriate made me feel pretty good. Plus, I didn’t get punched in the mouth, which is also a bonus when dealing with a bully.
I am compiling some of my stories into a collection called “Inappropriate Behavio(u)r” and this one may or may not make the cut. I already have a pretty good story about waiting in line for a restroom, and I surely don’t want to make it seem as if The Bay Area Brit spends his free time loitering around public bathrooms for material.
Or do I?
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Posted on March 4, 2012 by The Bay Area Brit
So I know that this kind of thing is always a sensitive subject, but I’m going to run with it and face the consequences of your opinions. In some cases I will be taken to task and enlightened, and in other cases I will probably be misunderstood. For the most part The Bay Area Brit avoids serious issues. I try and keep things loose, and ideally I like you to leave my little home here with a smile on your face.
So here it is: The New York Knicks have a player that has come from the sporting equivalent of nowhere to become a sensation. Jeremy Lin dominated February’s basketball headlines and became the darling of New York. In the biggest city in America, he rose above the pressures and created an overnight success story. Fans held signs punning Lin’s name. “Lin-Sanity” was popular, “Lin-credible,” “Lin-spirational” etc etc.
Some of them were funny and some were clever, but I didn’t see any that were offensive.
David Letterman even did a Top 10 List. However, things took an ugly turn when pun turned to slur. An ESPN headline writer penned the words “A CHINK IN THE ARMOR” when Lin’s winning streak came to an end.
Now I’m not particularly sensitive or “politically correct” for that matter, but using a derogatory word like “Chink” in referring to a player of Chinese ancestry cannot possibly be accidental—like the writer pleaded.
I’m guessing he thought he was being funny. He failed—miserably.
I know. I often fail miserably when trying to be funny, but then, no one and I mean NO ONE expects me to be serious or educate my audience. And since my audience is so much smaller, the expectations for me to be responsible are lessened.
Okay, so here’s a joke:
Jeremy Lin has come from such obscurity that if you Googled his name a month ago, a mid-level computer programmer at Microsoft would have popped up first.
Can I even say that?
Firstly, I think we can agree that the joke isn’t that funny. And it’s not, unfunny because it’s particularly offensive. It’s just not funny because it’s not funny.
Also, the thing about a joke like that is that while the Google search statement might be true, it might be deemed as offensive because it hits on a stereotype: Asians are smart.
Okay, admittedly not a very negative stereotype but one nonetheless.
So how far is too far?
I thought I had a rough idea, but when I saw the story below, I realized I just don’t know, any more.
Last week, Ben & Jerry’s felt they had to apologize for their latest Ice-Cream Flavor. Here’s a breakdown of my immediate reaction: “Uh-oh what did those dopey stoners do now?”
Then after reading more, I discovered that they called their new flavor, “Taste The Lin-Sanity.”
So I thought, “Did Ben & Jerry’s offend an advocacy group that works for the rights of the mentally ill? Is that why they had to apologize? No, that can’t be it.”
Then: “Ooh, what about the ingredients? Maybe the ice-cream contains some of that bright red, shiny, dead duck that you see hanging in the windows of some Chinese markets and restaurants.” I half expected to see the words: “Shiny, Red Duck Bits and Plum-Caramel Swirls.”
That wouldn’t be the worst ice-cream flavor I had ever heard of.
So it turns out the ingredients were: “Vanilla frozen yogurt, Lychee honey, and fortune cookie chips” I was still kind of at a loss…yeah, I guess that could be a little offensive…then I thought, is that really the reason? Is there more to this? Maybe they were apologizing because the flavor (much like my joke earlier) wasn’t any good.
Now here’s where I may be offending my Chinese readers. Are Chinese people really offended by the use of fortune cookies in an ice cream flavor? Or is this the work of politically correct, white people that think Asians would or should be offended? Which, in a way, if that’s the case, actually offends me.
I really don’t know. I guess I’m asking…throwing it out there…waiting to be informed. Why is this so awful?
There are Chinese-owned restaurants all over the world with the name “Fortune Cookie” in it. I still get fortune cookies when I order Chinese food. And sometimes they’re actually clever.
Please bear in mind my philosophy: I try to poke fun at everyone, and I do it as much as I make fun of my people, and myself. I openly embrace the modern British stereotype that we are beer-guzzling, soccer hooligans that have bad teeth. I get it.
The Asian community has embraced Jeremy Lin with pride…and rightly so; he’s the ultimate underdog, and he is the first American basketball star of Chinese descent, but his success has nothing to do with his race or his ancestry.
The gray areas of racism are just that: caught between the black and white. It’s just such a touchy subject, and people’s opinions differ so strongly on it that it’s difficult in that gray area to truly know what is right or wrong.
I know in my heart I have to feel comfortable with what I say or what I think. I have my own boundaries, but I don’t like being censored or told “I can’t say that,” but at the same time, I am willing to listen to both sides of the argument, and especially if it is done articulately and intelligently and without any name-calling.
Meanwhile, here’s a young man who went back to work this week. He already has enough nicknames, but whatever, he’s the real deal. Go Giants!
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