Come over on a boat? You deserve a break.

A few people in nearby cubicles have been working on collections calls the past few weeks, attempting to retrieve payment from customers who are 30-90 days late on their equipment loans or leases. The guy adjacent to me is a good ol’ boy from North Dakota, went to college at Mankato State in MN, probably mid-40s, used to be a gym teacher, has a masters degree in “leadership” (I didn’t ask him what that meant or where he got his graduate degree), and frequently wears long-sleeved sporty sweatshirt things with a little mock turtleneck collar. Yesterday somebody else asked, “Hey, do we have a demand letter available in Spanish?” while working on a collections account.

The fellow next to me mutters back, “I sure hope not!”

“What?” I ask, turning my radio down. “Did you just say that you hope there isn’t a letter in Spanish? A letter that could help collect payment from a customer, which is kind of the point?”

“Heck no,” he replied, “if you come to my country then you dang well better speak our language. It’s America.”

Several people in the area popped up their heads and started a discussion about language requirements for citizenship and work visas and the amount of money spent to satisfy English-language-learner public school requirements and whether or not there was an English ability test to get through Ellis Island. A middle-aged woman piped up.

“My grandfather came from Norway and he didn’t speak any English,” she said. “He came across on a boat.”

“Well, that’s different,” my neighbor said. “If he came from Europe on a boat, that’s different. He deserved a break.”

I see…

June 16, 2009. Words.


  1. Mom replied:

    ufda (oofda?)
    and to think he graduated from my master’s alma mater.

    I thought you were going to say you used your Spanish to write the demand letter.

  2. amy lee replied:

    WOW – that’s all i can say

  3. Carol replied:

    Interesting too, that the same people travel to other countries and expect people there to speak English. Following his logic, I would expect your co-worker to be fluent in French if I went to France or Portugese if he travels to Brazil.

  4. Sandy replied:

    Jingoism. What would you have added to the conversation? A not-surprising sort of conversation that could take place anywhere in America. People have very short memories and forget how hard it is to learn a new language as an adult (which Americans rarely HAVE to do).
    On an unrelated topic – So the Wings came up a dollar short and now the Penguins are the kinga of the mountain. Hubris

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