Tonight I was taken out to eat, sort of a reward for cooking the rest of the week and fighting the commissary on Fridays. We ate at a Chinese restaurant which was very busy, so much so they had a kitchen help sitting tables and taking drink orders. Well his English wasn’t up to the task for our table or the next. Mine was a quick fix, theirs not so much, and they ended up walking out in a huff over the language difference. That reminds me of when I worked banquets at Sandestin while Dad was still active duty at Eglin. This may be a repeat but the memory was triggered so bear with me.
I was put in charge of a fairly large party over at Elephant Walk, it was a sit-down dinner, they had three choices, steak, chicken, or fish, a salad and wine, red or white. There were about 20 tables, 8-10 people each. As I was loading up the vans, I was pulled aside and told there might be a little hitch. “What, pray tell?” I asked. I was told it was the upper echelon on Sony over from Japan, their interpreter was sick and they don’t speak much English. “How much is much?” I asked reasonably. “Um, er, ah, well none at all”. None? They said, you can handle it, you’re multi-lingual right? “yes, but Japanese isn’t one of them”
After their speeches and presentations, all in Japanese of course, I approached the head table, bowed, introduced myself and asked if he wanted the beef, chicken, or fish. He looked blankly at me, conferred with his table, and still stared blankly up at me. Resisting the urge to repeat myself louder, I thought, what the heck, I hope he has a sense of humor. I asked if he wanted the beef, and made horns on my head with my fingers and said moo, paused, the chicken, stuck my arms under my armpits and flapped while making clucking noises, paused again and said or fish, made swimming motions and went gulp gulp. He paused, looked a little shocked, then broke into a grin. He conferred with his table, and repeated how many beef, chicken or fish the table wanted.
Then he stood and announced how to place orders to the rest of the room. I ended up taking all the orders, not trusting, or willing to put my wait staff through that. However, the Japanese had a great time pantomiming their food orders. I told the staff, everyone gets the same salad dressing, everyone gets two glasses, we will pour both bottles of wine. The dinner was a rousing success, we sold twice as much wine (or more), and they indicated that I deserved an added gratuity through their interpreter the next day. The management had a great laugh at my expense, until I pointed out that I had solved the problem, and in such way that made the guests happy. Brats can think WAY outside the envelope!
John Paul Jones
As a follow-up for Schooling with Uncle Sam, the museum is seeking submissions for its next anthology: Host Nation Hospitality.
The book will focus on personal memories–what it was like to work or study overseas and the unique opportunities we had – the mundane, funny, or tragic events and interactions that made for a memorable experience. Stories can be about a certain time, event, or memory. Where did you hang out? What new foods did you try? What do you remember best about exploring your new duty station? What amazing friendships did you make?
We are looking for stories about living, working, or attending school around the world.
Authors included in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book in lieu of payment. You may submit up to 3 pieces for consideration. Deadline: 1 June 2022
All stories become the property of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collections Library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help the Museum continue to bring exhibits and programming to the community—and to preserve your incredibly unique history.
For more information or to submit a story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.