Thursday, August 13, 2009

How bout not being so sensitive!

Source: StarTribune

I'm not important enough to warrant a beer summit. But I did get a bottle of water out of the deal.

Last week, as the rest of the country tried to forget the unpleasant confrontation between Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge police officer James Crowley, I had my own Gates-Crowley moment.

I went to Fridley to interview the president of a large manufacturing company. I arrived a few minutes before noon and told the receptionist at the front desk I was looking for the president's executive assistant.

"Oh. Are you delivering food?" she asked.

Oh, no, she didn't!

It wasn't the first time I was mistaken for a Chinese food delivery guy. In college, I had arrived at my girlfriend's dorm with dinner and the front desk dude assumed just that. I was embarrassed, to be sure, but let it go. That's the burden of being a Chinese-American with a penchant for baseball caps, jeans and takeout food.

Yet the receptionist's inquiry stunned me. I was wearing a dress shirt, black slacks and black dress shoes. True, I was sporting a backpack and sunglasses, but how many food delivery guys whip out kung pao chicken from a Gap bag?

After realizing her error, the receptionist offered a rather clumsy explanation. "I only asked because [the executive assistant] always orders food," she said.

Nice try, lady. Someone's not getting a Christmas card this year.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. At least she didn't speak extra slowly and offer a tip.

As I drove back to the office, chugging the bottle of water the company had given me, I chuckled to myself. I wasn't too upset. The receptionist seemed way more embarrassed than I was.

But then I told the story to friends and colleagues. I expected them to laugh and sympathize. Instead they offered several explanations, everything except what seemed obvious to me.

Yeah it's only obvious to you cause you're damn sensitive.

And why were you embarassed? You got something against delivery workers that you feel EMBARASSED to be called one? Many people start out working in Chinese restaurants. Entire families are supported by one delivery guy job. You should be ashamed.

Last I checked secretaries are quite busy and they're not going to notice everything. Let's say her boss ordered Chinese food, so she's just asking if this is food. If the delivery guy walked in and she mistakened him for the journalist, do you think he would be as upset as you?

Secretaries deal with hundreds of people a day plus a bazillion phone lines. So she thought you were someone you're not.. boohoo. She apologized for it. If it were me, I would have just ignored it, but instead you made a person feel bad for a mistake, hope you're proud of yourself.

This whining is newsworthy? Some newspaper editor accepted this? This isn't journalism. This is something a little blog like mine would write about!

Not everything is racist you know.


Anonymous said...

"This whining is newsworthy? Some newspaper editor accepted this? This isn't journalism. This is something a little blog like mine would write about!"

exactly... you don't see the women complain when people mistaken them for thai prostitutes.

It's an honest mistake get over it people!

Anonymous said...

you should never assume a thai woman is a prostitute.

many of my half-asian friends have been to thailand for a holiday with their partner and/or friends and have been groped and solicited for sex while out.

its not about being over-sensitive. its about being disrespected and there is NOTHING wrong if you feel that way.

think before you act. these situations are not 'honest mistakes'.