Writer’s Workshop: No habla español

Mama's Losin' It1.) Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with someone who speaks a different language than you.

Before I quit work to stay home with the babies, I worked at a doctor’s office as a receptionist. There were six receptionist in my office, and one doctor who spoke Spanish. The only Spanish speaking doctor in the area. And there were only two receptionist who spoke Spanish, without them, we’d be so screwed. When they both had the same day off, or one had off and the other was working in  a different office, we were so screwed.

One day I’m sitting at the check-in window, waiting for patients to start showing up. It was a Thursday, which means our Spanish speaking doctor was off, so it wasn’t an issue both of the receptionist were not there that day. I should have known better. As soon as the patient walked in, I knew I would have trouble. The way he eyed me, and sauntered up to the window uneasily. Oh God. I put on my best smile and tried to talk just in case I was wrong.

“Hi, how can I help you?”
“Somebody speaka Spanish?” Oh, his accent was heavy.
“Not today, can I help you?”
“You speaka Spanish?”
“No, they’ll be back tomorrow. How can I help you?”
“I needa make appointment with, er, Dr. H.”
“Okay, what do you need to be seen for?”
“I needa appointment.”
“I know, why do you need to be seen.”
“With Dr. H.”
“I understand, but why do you need to see Dr. H.” Why is it that when there is a language barrier people start to speak slower and slightly louder? I know I was.
“I havea, er, sore, er, throat?” At this point he wildly waved him arm in front of his neck.
“Okay, tomorrow afternoon sound good?”
“Tomorrow afternoon??”
“No, I need to see Dr. H.”
“Yes, I know, but he is off on Thursday’s. He’ll be here tomorrow.”
“Yes, tomorrow.”
“Okay, I come back then.” And he walked out. Just like that.

This didn’t happen on a daily basis for anyone, but it happened enough where it was a joke, watching the non-Spanish speaking girl try to survive a Spanish speaking patient. It was like a hazing ritual. If I could go a week without having to do that, it was a good week.


2 Responses

  1. Visiting from Mama Kats…

    I do tend to speak louder and slower … it reminds me of that old Steve Martin routine where he is trying to talk French but does it loud and slow and speaks English with a French accent.

    • That’s exactly what it reminds me of! I always felt so stupid after the patient would leave and wanted to melt into my chair to disappear…
      Thanks for stopping by!

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