Tag Archives: language barrier

Actual Occurrences: Communication barriers

The following exchange took place Nov. 22 near 3:30 a.m. on Prospect Place near the corner of Classon Avenue, outside a hardly convenient late-night corner store, at which the only way to communicate the clerk was through a small rotating security window, through which the clerk informed the eager and hungry group of young men in front of us that sandwiches, all sandwiches, were done, no chicken, no sandwich, no, much to their disappointment. Getting further information or purchasing help out of this man was difficult as he was remained intently focused on the phone pressed to his ear, as if that were the main purpose for his being posted here this night.

The situation was elevated by the perpetually annoying late-night security practices found at many convenience stores in the city, those who lock their front door and force you to peruse the inventory and purchase things only through the rotating security window. They had this in the rougher parts of DC too, though lots of shops there will at least allow you to step in and survey the goods, albeit as they are protected by a two-inch-thick plate of bulletproof glass. Not in New York, where your convenience is the least of anyone’s concern.

The group shuffled off down Prospect Place, shouting fair warning to a similar-looking group headed for the same store.

“Good luck,” one of the guys from the first group said disdainfully.

“What, is he Hispanic or Arab?” someone from the second group asked.

The first guy turned and responded, still walking away in frustration: “He’s … he’s on the phone.”

There were no sandwiches had by anyone that night.