I'd like to take a brief moment to assure you, dear reader, that for the vast majority of the time, this assumption of my forgein-ness really amuses me. Also, my cat makes a great prop for my note book.
Anyway. Here's a conversation that I've had several times in the past:
Me: "Welcome to Restaurant Awesome, I'm your Waitress of Awesome!"
Customer: "Where are you from?"
Me: "Northern California."
Customer: "No, before that."
Me: *blink* How do they know I was born in a different state?! Doo-doo doo-doo (that's the Twilight Zone theme) ... "Uhm, Utah."
Customer: "No, I mean originally."
Now, at this point I have several options, depending on the politeness, level of ignorance, and willingness to learn exhibited by my darling customers:
Educational: "I was born in America/Utah."
Teasing: "The stork!", or, "My parents did a special hug that signalled the stork."
Slightly sarcastic with a side of "duh": "Despite their best efforts, the Mormons never were able to make Utah into its own nation, so I was born in America."
I particularly enjoy, when asked what nationality I am, replying with "Cracker!" and walking away.
How grouchy I get depends on how often I've had to fight the assumption that because I'm covered, I'm foreign (what, the Californian accent completely missed your comprehension?) in the past shift or week, and I do have to stop to remind myself of several things:
- I've received a total of two (2) stupid remarks since starting at my Restaurant of Awesome (henceforth to be abbreviated to RoA). One was a drunk guy, and one was the assumption that Islam is an Arab religion, therefore I was Arab.
- Everyone else has been polite, even if ignorant ("Is that thing on your head for religious reasons?", whilst it could be considered rude, was simply an ignorant and ill-thought-out way of asking an honest question --- even though I wanted to smack the girl).
- I've answered these questions a million times ... but each person has only asked them once. Old news to me is new news to them.
- I chose to wear hijab at work. I chose it for me, and I chose it for God, but I still made that choice, which included putting myself in the spotlight and making myself an unofficial spokesperson for hijab and Islam. This leads me into ...
- This is the perfect chance to do da'wah, to invite people to learn about Islam and hijab. For all I know, I'm the only obvious Muslim that these people have ever met, and therefore, how I behave whilst (back off my British spellings) interacting with them may be a deciding factor in how they view Islam. Way back in my Jamba Juice days, how would I have reacted to Islam (even though I knew more than most non-Muslims --- Muslim roleplaying characters ftw!) if Brother Ibrahim (God bless him) had been rude to me? Stand-offish? Dismissive of my questions, when all I wanted to do was learn? Would I be Muslim now, if that formative first relationship had been a bad one? A year or two from now, will I see some of these people in the mosque, taking shahada? Will they, when talking about Islam with their friends, point out that they had a Muslim waitress once who was very friendly and open to answering their questions, and therefore all Muslims can't be that bad ... or will they talk about the Muslim waitress who was rude when they asked a simple question in an effort to increase their knowledge, and say that all Muslims are intolerant of others? Which response do I want to be responsible for?
Woo, that got long. Next post's topic: how to be inquisitive without being rude.