Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 12 2003

The other day on the subway I was approached by an…

The other day on the subway I was approached by an older Chinese man. “Excuse me, ” he said. “Can you tell me the English name of these?” He was referring to the bouquet of nondescript flowers he held in his hand.

I looked them over, but couldn’t identify them. They were white, that was all I could tell. “Orchids? Lilies?” I told him. “Sorry, I don’t know anything about flowers.”

“Or-chid?” he looked at me for confirmation, but I couldn’t tell an orchid from a concrete wall.

“I really don’t know, I’m sorry.”

He turned around, dejected at his failure to elicit the mysterious name of the flowers from me, and I suddenly felt ashamed of my ignorance. I envisioned the old guy presenting the flowers to a woman he was sweet on, or perhaps his wife, wishing he could impress her with the English name of the flowers. Or perhaps the woman he was sweet on was a foreigner, maybe even his English teacher. In any case, he was obviously on his way there, and the chances he would meet another foreigner, much less one who knew the kind of flowers he held, were slim to none.

I felt bad about letting the old guy down, even though I still find people who see all white people in their immediate vicinity as mobile English-teaching units placed there for their convenience. And Lord knows I’ve offended more than my fair share of people on the subway by doing things like blocking opportunists who endeavor to dash on to the train and grab a seat before anyone gets off, but I was actually kind of hoping to set an example with that one. In any case, disappointing old guys with flowers wasn’t part of the plan.

posted by Poagao at 1:36 am  

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