My flight from Spokane was about to land at Denver International Airport. I was sitting near exit row. I hurried myself to put my iPod and laptop in my bag.
“Would you please ______ the ________?”
“I am sorry. Can you repeat what you are saying?“ I said.
“Would you ______ the ________?”
I still could not understand what the flight attendant was talking about. Without wasting any second, I began to imagine any instruction or protocol required for those who sit near “exit row” of the airplane.
Looking at the confusing look of my face, my fellow passenger stretched his arm and opened the window cover. Only then I realized what the flight attendant was trying to tell me.
Bemused with my poor understanding of her instruction, the flight attendant whispered loudly to her fellow flight attendant – “I thought he (me) said he understood English”.
I must confess that it was painful when someone like her judged me within seconds without understanding various possibilities. Possibilities like, flight attendant was talking way faster – she was using sentence without window or anything in it for easy guessing – I was very absent-minded after listening a powerful story in my iPod.
With a heavy heart, I came outside of airport to catch the bus. The bus driver asked me about my destination before putting my luggage in proper compartment. I said “Baseline” in my accent.
I saw the same confusing look that I must have while trying to decipher the flight attendant’s question. Before I could speak the second word, bus driver guessed my destination and nodded positively before moving on to the next passengers waiting with their heavy luggage.
This series of events about language barrier and misunderstanding reaffirm my thought about how I should respond to this kind of embarrassment. I am sure many of my international friends whose native language is not English must have gone through similar incidents to some extent.
It’s not what has happened to us, it’s our choice or reaction to what has happened determines the outcome.
I felt lot better after these thoughts. Bus started moving, so do my thoughts – a step closer to where I like to belong.
Do you have experienced similar embarrassment and learned something positive out of it? Please share my view if you like it.