So I was in Kinokuniya, in the English language section, and this random just comes up to me out of nowhere and asks me if I can help him find a good book for help his English, or something along those lines, even though I don’t know him from Adam and he has no idea I’m an English teacher.

Sure, it was a good guess – we are all English teachers, aren’t we, us whiteys, especially in this town – but he couldn’t have known 100%, could he, and anyway how’s he know I’m going to help, I could be a bastard.

So I look at him all confused and shake my head and say, English books, what do you mean, I don’t understand. I could’ve pretended to be Dutch or something – I’ve been mistaken for that before, that and German, northern European anyway – but I spoke in English and told him I wasn’t an English teacher. And, anyway, I was in the history section, so he nodded and smiled and said sorry and walked away. I wasn’t wearing the uniform of the shop or anything so maybe I wasn’t there to help after all.

As soon as he left, though, I immediately felt like a dick. His eyes had gone kind of wet-white when I told him I couldn’t help, like he was ashamed for having asked me and doubly ashamed that he’d presumed I was an English teacher, but I couldn’t change my mind now. I’d actually be a dick, not just a liar.

So I gave up on buying a book even though I didn’t have one to read and desperately wanted to buy something new, and walked home thinking, this guy, he probably now thinks I’m rude because I lied – there was a sign in his eyes that he knew or thought he knew I was lying. Which meant he left with a whole new perspective on whiteys, or me at least.

Before he probably thought we were all kind and helpful, but maybe we’re not, maybe we’re rude and lazy and liars. So even though I thought he was rude to ask me for help his English when he had no idea who I was, he’ll now never go up to a whitey again, or will but thinking will he, won’t he? We’ll no longer be that kind, helpful stereotype.

Which, I suppose, can only be a good thing – we can’t all be stereotypes – even if we’re both walking away thinking, Jesus, what a jerk.


15 thoughts on “Cultural Exchange

  1. That’s kind of a WOW – and the day I can write something as good as that I’ll be thrilled to pieces. Well done! Thanks for it.

  2. I can’t tell if you’ve included the same error twice to show that your character is somehow mocking the man who asked for help his english or if it’s to show that though he’s a “whitey” his first language isn’t even English- thereby making him a bigger dick/jerk, as you say.

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