Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Open, Constructive & Most PC Letter to Foreign Dude

He’s a visitor who frequents the Spendorama Department Store. A visitor who, at least once a month, always manages to find me there and bring his pile of clearance shi—I mean, valued purchases that just happen to be red-tagged merchandise—to a cash register I happen to be working. I can’t, of course, mention him by name. So I will simply describe him and hope my message gets through to the appropriate party.

Sometimes he’s from Europe—mostly the former Communist bloc. Sometimes he’s from Central or South America. Once, he was from South Africa. Usually, he’s from Asia. He’s in the 35-55 bracket, age-wise. Occasionally, he’s blue collar; but for the most part, I’d say he’s a white collar worker. For convenience’s sake, I’ll give this man a nickname. I’ll call him—in only the most respectful and politically correct of ways—“Foreign Dude”.

Dear Foreign Dude:

Hey there. You might remember me. I’m a salesman at the schlock-house department store you raid, regularly, for clearance stuff to (I presume) ship home to your place of origin. I mean, what else would you be doing with all those shirts, sweaters and socks? That’s a very admirable endeavor, to be sure. We do so appreciate your patronage, sir. Without you, we’d still be stuck with all those “It Is What It Is!” T-shirts. I’m sure those earned you the admiration of all your relatives and friends, who can’t get over your newfound American wit. A short stay in the U.S. of A. has transformed you into a regular Captain Chuckles. Way to go!

Being a perceptive and intelligent person, I’m sure you’ve noticed a million and one differences between life in America and life in the Old Country. I’m sure some of our standards and practices don’t quite make sense to you or measure up to those in the Old Country. Depending on where you’re from, you may be new at this “freedom of speech” thing. Maybe even a little drunk with power. All very valid feelings. But, that said, please allow me to make my point.


I don’t know why Americans are "so fat”. I’m not the reason Americans are so “under-educated”. Don’t, please, highlight this fact by calculating totals in your head before the cash register does, or dropping a quote from Confucius or Plato. I don’t know why Americans are “so lazy”. In case you haven’t noticed, I happen to be at work, which would infer that I, an American, am NOT lazy. I don’t know why American children “have no respect”. You might have noticed that I’m not one of them. I don’t know why American women walk around “half-naked”. If you’re so damn interested, ask one of them. And as for your observations of “my” various American “minority groups”? Refer to my previous suggestion.

Foreign Dude, if you require information, visit your local public library. Don't hassle me with 101 questions about American practices. I’m sorry that you’re mystified by sales tax. The fact that you’re confused by U.S. traffic laws, safety regulations, public standards of decency, cleanliness and the price of potatoes in Idaho is someone else’s problem. The salesman, Foreign Dude, is not a fountain of American knowledge for you to quaff. I just point you to the racks and scan the bar codes.

I will, however, offer you a bit of advice regarding freedom of speech. Just because you have this privilege doesn’t mean you should always use it. I’m not interested in your opinions regarding my hair, my clothes, the proportions of my body, etc. I’m not required to provide you with details regarding my weekly work schedule, my paycheck, my educational background or my religious and political preferences. I don’t want yours, either. No, I won’t introduce you to the “hat leetle muma” I happen to be working with. She’s unavailable anyway; she has a test tomorrow.

Lastly, Foreign Dude, I am not the president of Spendorama Department Stores, Incorporated. I don’t decide what merchandise goes on the shelves, what the prices are, how wide the aisles are, when the store opens, when it closes, what the return policy or shipping rates are. I don’t know why we close early on Super Bowl Sunday, but not on Easter Sunday. And wave your American Express card in front of me as much as you like. I see dozens of them a day. It don’t impress me, Mr. Rockefeller.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m criticizing you. You do impress me in many ways—your rudeness, most of all. For someone so new to these shores, you’ve become as selfish and arrogant as native-born Yanks. Congrats on that and good luck with your continued Americanization.

See you in the clearance aisle,

John Left