I made the following phone call the other day. It was to the family of a high school girl who's failing English, regarding setting up some tutoring sessions. The mother, to whom I'd spoken to at this number before, was named Carol:
ME: Hello, is Carol there?
ACCENTED VOICE: Who?
ACCENTED VOICE: Who?
ME: Carol Ramirez…? (at this point I'm wondering if I'd dialed the wrong number, despite the fact that it was PROGRAMMED INTO MY CELL PHONE)
VOICE: (pause) Yes.
ME: Oh. (pause) Can I speak to her?
VOICE: (imcomprehensible Spanish) …name?
ME: What? Well, I'm looking for Carolyn. My name's Paul.
VOICE: (incomprehensible Spanish)
And that's when I hung up. I knew this was going nowhere. I could tell that this was indeed Carol's house, but that she couldn't come to the phone for some reason, yet this woman (her mother or something) couldn't take a message or tell me when to call back, because clearly, she didn't speak English. And why did I know this? Because I'd spoken to this woman before. Half a dozen times, perhaps, over the last several weeks.
Here is where the rant begins. I haven't met with this poor student in three weeks, because I haven't been able to schedule an appointment. I'm starting to doubt if I will, because apparently this woman has taken it upon herself to be the designated phone answerer, no matter the time of day or night, no matter who else is in the house, no matter who is calling. Despite the fact that SHE DOESN'T SPEAK ENGLISH.
Granted, we live in a country where many people speak Spanish and other languages. But I'm pretty sure that more people speak English. Particularly those people who use the phone system. In fact I would go so far as to say that of all people who will make a telephone call today in this country, 90% of them don't speak Spanish. And yet this woman answers the phone, despite the fact that SHE DOESN'T SPEAK ENGLISH.
I do not hate people from other countries. I do not hate people who speak Spanish, even in a mostly English-speaking country. Who do I hate? People who answer the phone, in an English-speaking country, and then DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH.
Dear old Spanish-speaking lady: what good is possibly going to be accomplished by you answering my call? It's true: I could be a Spanish-speaking friend. But I also could be from the power company. Or a teacher from school. Or the cops, telling you your daughter has been hit by a car, or one of the other 350 MILLION PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO USE THE PHONE AND DON'T SPEAK SPANISH. Or I could have been an English-speaking tutor, calling to try and help your English-speaking granddaughter. A lot we can get done on the phone, then.
If you want to move to a country and not make ANY effort to learn the language spoken there, fine. That's your deal. Personally, if I moved to Sweden, I feel like I'd at least ATTEMPT to learn a little Swedish, but hey, you do your thing. JUST DON'T ANSWER THE GODDAMN PHONE. Can't you let one of your bilingual relatives take care of that? Or, I don't know, let the machine get it? But no - you pick up the phone. And we get nowhere.
Now this is the part in the rant where I'm supposed to say "Don't get me wrong, I'm not a racist, but…" No, fuck that, I AM a racist. I'm a racist against people who answer the fucking phone and can't speak fucking English. I've even taken to calling late at night, when you might be asleep. But no, you doze softly by the phone, your gnarled claw clutching the receiver in case someone might call with cell phone minutes you can ruin.
Carol, I've thought about using a reverse-directory to find your address and mailing you. I've thought about calling the school to see if you or your daughter has a cell phone. But in the end, I've decided it's not worth the effort. I'm sure her grandmother would just open the door and then not speak English, and I'd have to knock her down to get into the house. Besides, it sounds like your daugther has all the role models she needs in the ways of passing (on) English.