Thursday, July 24, 2008

Foreigners go home – ten a penny around here

It is usually just after I have convinced myself that I really am an American that I have cause for doubt.

After yet another night where three people complain of leg cramps, I trot over to Target to buy some Potassium tablets. Whilst I’d prefer to buy a hand of bananas, sadly there would be no takers from these three particular individuals. Although I have sung the praises of bananas to the crampy people, and provided scientific evidence of their benefits, no-one will co-operate.

I dither over $3:89 plus tax. My ignorance over all things medical makes me pause. I check with the pharmacist on duty. “Is it true that Potassium helps leg cramps?”
“Oh er..are you on any other medications?” He watches my mouth with intensity. I might as well walk around with a sign that says ‘Brit with bad teeth!’ Then I remember that they’re straight now. I worry that my lunch reveals itself on my retainer.
“No….um…..well they’re not for me actually, they’re for my Mother in Law.”
“She on any meds?” His eyes drop from my eyes to my mouth. I tighten my lips to mutter, “yes, lots.” I bet it’s spinach!
“Which ones?”
“Er ……well……” I need to think of an excuse, “she’s visiting from England so they have different names.” I find it hard to concentrate with someone staring so intently at my teeth. I always forget that every American knows everything there is to know about ailments and medications, walking, talking pharmacists.
“That’s o.k. I can cross check on our database if they’re not generic.” I smile weakly, glad that at least I know what ‘generic’ means.
“I’m not sure I can remember all of them,” I lie. It’s not a secret, it’s just something that we’ve never discussed. It’s not a privacy issue, it would be the same with my own mother. Not a clue.

“O.k. just tell me what conditions she has?”

I list them.

“Right well in that case this probably isn’t a good choice as there’s a one in 5 and a half zillion chances of heart arrhythmia.”

I try and avoid eye contact but every time my eyes flicker back to his face, his pupils are dilated upon my teeth. Perhaps it’s red peppers? Perhaps he thinks I’m bleeding? I fluster.
“Oh dear. Not good. Maybe we should go the food route as I originally planned.”
“Yeah, bananas are best.”
“Unfortunately that’s why I’m here in the first place, as none of them eat bananas.”
‘None? How many people.”
“Three, my husband, my son and my Mother in Law.”
“You’re all on holiday here? Give me a minute.”

He steps away to his colleague who hands him a print out of foodstuffs with the highest levels of Potassium. Now that’s what I call customer service! Talk about team work! We go through the list together. He is joined by both his colleagues. They all watch my mouth. They all ask me questions and offer helpful advice. Every time my lips part I have three people hanging on every breath. Perhaps I have Halitosis? I knew I should have cleaned my teeth before I left. Perhaps they’re plucking up the courage to tell me?

“So where are you from?”
“Um….England, ……..but we live here now, …… mother in law is just visiting,….. she’s on holiday…….with us.”

I have the distinct impression that I am speaking Swahili as I look into three pairs of hypnotized eye balls. There is a pause in our unusually lengthy conversation about nothing in particular.

“How long have you bin here?”
“Er….let me think…..1995 so that’s 13 years.”
“Wow that’s amazing.”
“Oh er…..thank you,” although I’m not quite sure what for?
“That’s way cool!”

Seconds of confusion tick by until he puts me out of my misery, “you really talk English with an accent.”


Angela said...

Hehe! You talk English... priceless!

Trixie said...


I get the same here!

People ask how long I've been in the uk, and I tell them 12 years, they are amazed I still have my Aussie accent! Geez, I spoke this way for 27 years before I came here, I'm not gonna change now!

Linda said...

At least you found out that it wasn't because you had something stuck in your teeth! That would have been so much worse!

I never thought I had an accent at all having been born and raised here in the good ole' US of A but when I lived in California I had more people tell me I that I did, in fact, have a New England accent. Go figure!

The Anti-Wife said...

Hey, at least he didn't say you talk American with an accent.