Today I have been thinking about how language and speech are often misunderstood, and how human error in sending and receiving information sometimes results in pain and wrongs. I have also been thinking about what a Jesus Pedicure would have been like. What would I talk about with Jesus while he held my foot?
It was a Saturday “Girls’ Day Out.” The footsink Lazy Girl Recliners were full and fully, feverishly rubbing down the spines of full-figured women. Slight, deft handed, accomodating Asians were industriously working wonders on feet, rubbing flabby calves, and detailing flowery toes. I nearly resigned to passing on the indulgence. I would have been fine not spending money on myself, satisfied with simply resting. I was tired. I sat checking Friday’s spelling tests while glancing over at my sister and youngest daughter both happily melting away into an hour of relaxation and pampering. Nice.
My sister is a people person like me and innitiated conversation. Remarkably, the owner remembered us from our last Fabulous Nails visit. I noticed the business had nicely expanded since then. Five years ago, regardless the surroundings, we had laughed and laughed with the owner and listened to her stories about the early years coming to America and starting her business. These events had been made funny by time, distance, and the energy, expression and annimation of the storyteller. I had to wonder at what had once been felt more as a frustration with cultural differences, communication and language barriers. I thought it amazing how this individual had turned unfortunate misunderstandings into humorous retells. I wondered at the ease and openness in which she shared all of this. I sat amazed at the Craftswomanship she exhibited in story telling while simultaneously procuring lovely pedicures.
A Vietnamese friend had attempted an online dating service. Phone calls and email had begun being exchanged. At some point the couple had moved the relationship forward to the point of wanting to fax something. The woman went to a copy center to fax. She asked the copy center tech if there were international faxing services available. This was understood as a completely different request, and was evident in the worker’s body language, and especially the expressive wrinked nose and confused frown.
“I wan f*&*ing interational,” the Vietnamese asked of the tech.
Both individuals were at an impass. Services were not rendered and the customer left unsatisfied in not being allowed to FAX.
In time, I took my place in the pedicure chair. Laughter turned to relaxation as I melted away in one of the best foot massages I have ever had.
It was nearing the summer months. The Vietnamese owner of Fabulous Nails had not lived in America long. It was time for her to prepare the garden spot and plant vegetables. In her homeland, squash are planted hanging upside down on the side of the house or on the roof. Here, in Utah squash seeds are planted in the ground and allowed plenty of room to sprawl. I thought of the urban east side sprawl of our location. I listened as she told about a conversation over the fence with a neighbor who also shared a love for gardening. She began explaining how the “Asians squat on the roof.” The neighbor was at a loss, and after several days of looking for a squatting Asian on the roof gave up to trying to understand the horticulture of Vietnamese cultures and people.
I am remembering getting new tires an some minor repairs on my own Pearl (car) just this last week. Hm. Let’s just say the next story involved needed car repairs. A Vietnamese friend of the Fabulous Nails owner called a garage inquiring about having his “axil worked on.” He couldn’t understand why the business kept hanging up each time he called back with this request. The English word when pronounced with a Vietnamese accent sounded a lot like an inappropriate reference to the anatomical body part responsible for passing human excrement.
A young attrative Vietnamese man went into a Seven Eleven and asked,
“You Make- a- lobe?”
The young attractive attendent took offense at the customer’s forwardness. Feeling sexually harrassed, she called the police. The squad car responded and an officer entered and began questioning the customer.
No action was taken once everyone understood the customer simply wanted to purchase some beer and was not in the store soliciting sex.
“No, I want Michelobe.”
I realized that misunderstanding often resulted from mistaken hearing due to pronunciation that did not represent English language words as they were intended to be spoken. These words sounded less than everyday, functional, high frequency words, and more like base swear words.
My peaceful rest was interrupted by smatterings of Vietnamese conversation between salon workers….foreign words uttered between my toes and the toes of other customers. During this time and other times, I was caught in this toe jam, wondering what was being said. I wondered if I should feel the least bit annoyed by such exchanges. Today, again, I pretended that what was being said was only the nicest of sentiments, and that only the best of feelings existed in the room. I wondered if I knew even a little Vietnamese, if I would have understood, or if I would have jumped to conclussions.
I sometimes struggle unnecessarily in sending and receiving messeges. Sometimes this is because I am so tired. I wonder what is really intended or meant to be conveyed in some daily exchanges in my own work setting at school. Communication is largely conducted in English, my native language. Sometimes things are miscommunicated. Things are misunderstood. Good, accurate, appropriate communication is so essential to effectiveness in our work settings and in our relationships.
Sometimes what we say, or what we write is not what was intended. Words are misunderstood by our audience. People jump to erred conclusions of what is meant in what is heard or read. This has happened to me in TEXT gone wrong, and blogging misunderstood. Caution and clarity is needed. Not always achieved where emotions prevail.
What is to be done? After the fact, there are three things that can be done: 1, Risk to seek resolution, 2, Do nothing but continue hurting, or 3. Let it go. Each of these require courage and kind common sense. Caution is the better prequel, pretreatment or additive. I am thinking of STP engine conditioner for some reason…smooth running engine…..smooth running work place. Hm.
So as the afternoon wore one….. I sat with toenail polish drying under a heat lamp and I thought……what if…..what if…..I took a more cautious, careful personal approach to the things I say and write…..maybe. Perhaps, a pause or general silence is the Pedi-Cure……the cure and prevention for Inserting my foot in my mouth…… with or without sparkly aqua marine Mermaid polish on my big flipper feet.
As my credit card was run and I added on the tip, the woman who had served me and given the most exellent foot massage took my hand. With a cotton swab she cleaned the two or three fingernails of streaks of test polish.
“Sorry,” she said.
I smiled and replied, “It is just fine. No harm done. Thank you.”
In this moment, I felt gratitude and remembered how Forgiveness is invaluable. A soft cottony remover of mistakes feels good…..whether it is understood or not. Forbearance, and Forgiveness are wonderful, invaluable gifts. Kindness and Prevention gifts too. Before I speak or comment I wish I would remember to ask myself…….”What would Jesus Do? or What would Jesus say?” These would make good sentence starters.