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Watch Your Tongues

, | Working | August 19, 2014

(In this story I am the employee. I’m currently working a football stadium in Brazil, and I’m the only multi-lingual employee in my area, as it is not a huge game. I’m waiting, in a food area that has a phone, to escort a disabled English fan to their seat, and I am making conversation with the Portuguese manager and employee.)

Manager: *in Portuguese* “When are you expecting the call?”

Me: “In a couple of minutes. Then I’ll head down and take them up.”

Employee: “Do you need anything?”

Me: “Nah, I’ve got a key.”

(Suddenly a group of obviously Spanish speaking fans show up and start working through the menu together.)

Manager: “I hate to ask, but our Spanish speaking server is on a break. Could you…?”

Me: “Oh! No problem!” *switching to Spanish to take the group’s orders* “How can I help you all?”

Fan #1: *in Spanish* “Thank you! Yes, I think we have it all figured out. We’ll need two [sodas] and three [other type of sodas], and…”

(Just then, the phone rings. I explain to them I’ll need a second as I’m supposed to be escorting a disabled fan up. They’re very understanding and tell me to take my time.)

Me: *in English* “Hello?”

Caller: “Hello! Yes, I’m down here with my daughter. We requested disabled seating.”

Me: “Oh! Yes, I’ll be there to escort you. Give me a minute to walk down.”

Caller: “No, no, no! Sorry, see, we’re having trouble finding our way, and instead of bothering another employee we hoped you would help us with directions? We’re at the red entrance.”

Me: “Yes, I know where you are. See, first… Uh, I just remembered I’m working with someone right now.”

Caller: “Oh, we’ll wait.”

Me: *to the fans, in Spanish* “All right, sorry. What else do you need?”

(He starts to list off his order, but I continue returning to the phone. Finally I get the disabled group to the meeting point.)

Manager: *in Portuguese* “Do you need to go now?”

Me: *in Spanish, which he does not understand* “Let me finish their order.” *to fans, in English* “Okay, so let me finish you off and we’ll get your food.”

Fan #1: *in English, struggling slightly* “Uh… three bag of chips. Please.”

Me: “Why are you speaking English?”

Fan #1: *laughing* “Because you are!”

(The phone rings from security that I need to go escort the group now.)

Me: *on phone, in Portuguese* “You’re ready? Good. I’ll be down momentarily.”

(I finally notice what I’ve just done.)

Me: *in English* “You understood none of that.”

Caller: *laughing* “Absolutely none!”

(We all had a good laugh about it and I quickly finished the group’s orders and escorted the disabled fan to her seat. My coworkers still joke about my ‘two language limit.’)

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