Thursday, May 19, 2016

Us and Them

(Thinking in English)

On my way to work this morning, I stopped at the corner market for a lottery ticket and said good morning to the shopkeeper from Pakistan who was arguing with his wife in Punjabi. He calls me Boss, and I like that, but I know he calls everyone Boss.

After I dropped off my laundry with the quiet Japanese man who owns the dry cleaning business and bows ever so slightly when I arrive and leave, I stopped in to say good morning to the husband and wife from the Philippines who own the train station cafe so we could show each other our latest grand baby pictures.

On the shuttle to work, I practiced saying "Good Morning" and yelling "You Crazy Fucker!" in Vietnamese at the other drivers with my friend Tien the Shuttle Bus Driver. This makes him smile.

At lunch time, I got something to eat from my friend Andy who runs the cafeteria. Andy is from China, works 6 days a week, 12 hours or more each day, and tells me he has no time to look for a wife. Andy likes the fact that I have a day job and a night job and whispers to me "Most Americans won't do that. Good for you!"

On the ride home from work, Tien the Shuttle Driver was having an argument on his phone and driving like he was maneuvering the streets of Ho Chi Minh City at noon, while the two Middle East software programmers sitting behind me were discussing code in Farsi. I asked Tien to drop me off at the corner market so I could buy a bottle of beer from the owner who was now arguing with his son in Punjabi. His son was answering his father in combinations of Punjabi and English.

As I left the corner market, I was thinking in English that perhaps we could all have a ceremony one day to officially abolish the concept of 'us and them' once and for all.

Ken Owen    May 2016
Van Niddy Press