When we lived in Minonk, Illinois, which is smack in the middle of… nowhere, and all the work of Sunday morning was done, Jan and I sometimes took our two teenagers for a get-away lunch to the nearest fast food stop, which was ten miles south at Dairy Queen, El Paso. On this particular Sunday, I got in line with the orders in mind, and stood behind a man who became increasingly disgruntled, as the famiIy in front of him tried to decipher the menu and communicate their food orders with their broken English.
Ironic, I thought, that a place named El Paso could not handle Spanish. The menu design did not help much, as the pictures did not correspond with anything printed nearby, so the process was taking awhile. Sunday mornings were usually uplifting, peaceful, and energizing, so I was in no hurry, enjoying the children’s interplay with their parents, and their struggle understanding what they were actually ordering.
Mr. Impatience Next-in-line would have none of it. His muttering under his breath grew louder and soon his swearing was loud enough for everyone nearby to hear. He turned back to me, plainly seeking support for evicting the blank, blank “foreigners, Mexicans.” “Where do they get these people, anyway?”
I put on my blank face and said what first came to mind, “Mah atah rotzeh? Ani lo yodeah,” in my best conversational Hebrew (which is to say, “What do you expect? I have no idea.”). The man turned red, turned around, and didn’t say another word. It wasn’t long before he got to place his order, and after a few moments, he had it in hand and left the restaurant.
We ate in peace, enjoying each other and the lovely family nearby who were discovering their strange and not particularly healthy or appetizing new foods.