Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Apparently, a few days ago I made a slight faux pas. Honestly, I guess it would have been a faux pas at any time, but frankly, this particular faux pas is so much worse with today’s political climate.
I asked a man where he was from.
Okay, a little bit of history. My regular readers know that I have been getting a lot of work on my vehicle, “Corrine” so named because I purchased her with my Coronavirus relief check. Any vehicle that you purchase for that small amount of money will have problems. I’m just fortunate that I found a vehicle that actually ran for what I could pay. Still, there were a lot of things I wanted to do so I could trust her, although frankly, she’s always proven herself to be trustworthy on the long and short trips I’ve taken so far. The first thing I did was a full tune-up and oil change knowing that if there was anything seriously wrong, they would find it and let me know. Then I had the headlights worked on, although they’re again failing, but honestly, I think the headlights have yellowed enough that I can run her with high beams on without really bothering anybody. Then it was the broken rear-view mirror, but through it, I still worried about the tires.
I had (yes, the tense is a hint) at least three different tires of varying tread and design. The one with the best tread was very different from the other three, one of which had such little tread left that I personally would call it “bald”. So, when I found I had enough money in my account for new tires, I jumped at the opportunity. Lucky me, there were tires on sale that were a step up from the design that she originally had when new for less money than the original ones. So now she has truly “bad” (in the good way) tires on rusted out rims.
I call that “personality”.
Okay, back to the original story. The owner for the shop where I have the work done is owned by a man with a thick Mediterranean accent and look. Probably the most important and influential man in my life is originally from Greece, and I think of my friend every time this man speaks, and, frankly, when I see him since he looks very similar as well. I resisted the first couple of times I had spoken with him, but this time, I just had to ask if he was from Greece.
The problem with the American ear is that it’s quite racist and very bad at distinguishing accents. We have a hard time telling the difference between a Chinese accent, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and so forth. I kind of get in the right general region, but we’re more often wrong than not. So, of course, I was wrong. I managed to get the general region right; he is from the Mediterranean, but not Greece. In fact, he is from Turkey.
I love asking people who are obviously not from here about their homeland. I love hearing about other countries, and I love the opportunity to ask about their homeland and their experiences and perspective of America. Unfortunately, right now, the US is rather hostile towards people from other countries.
I knew I made a mistake when, as soon as he told me that he’s from Turkey, he immediately launched into how long he has been in America and the relationship of Turkey with other countries. I have to admit, I felt terrible once I realized the mistake I had made. I was hoping to talk with him about his homeland, but at that point, I was more worried about making him more uncomfortable. One of my favorite questions to ask people from other countries is what surprised them most about the US, be it good, bad or indifferent. I’m always fascinated to hear about any misconceptions they brought with them.
It’s sad that we live in a day and age where people, in this country no less, have to be afraid of where they were born. This is a very nice man, and he owns a shop that does excellent and fair work which, as the owner, is no doubt due to his influence and leadership. This conversation was stifled, and I hope that in time he’ll learn to trust me better. Better still, I truly hope that our nation can move back from the abyss and become open and accepting once again.