Donde estan las compresas de Swiffer Wet Jet?
It is hard enough to communicate in Miami when you refuse to speak Spanish. This problem is compounded when your voice is 98% gone and everything you say sounds like a mating cricket. I have been communicating pretty much exclusively by text message since Saturday night, when I finally lost my voice from four consecutive nights of screaming over bar noise and playing Beer Pong on my back patio.
So after our weekend of visitors from Virginia and Atlanta, my apartment was completely thrashed. And since The Hag has decided to take up residence at his girlfriend’s house in Miramar five nights a week, I was sent to Publix to buy cleaning products to disinfect the apartment. Along with two bottles of bleach cleaner, a few sponges and some silver polish, I needed to buy Swiffer Wet Jet pads to clean the floors. Now I speak some Spanish, but knowing how to say “Excuse me, where are the Swiffer Wet Jet pads” en espanol is just not something they teach you in “Spanish on the Go.” So, as I stood on the aisle flanked by Mr. Clean and the harsh abrasives, I attempted to ask a guy stocking the shelves where I would find a Swiffer Wet Jet pad. Unfortunately, “Where do you have the Swiffer Wet Jet Pads” came out as a raspy “Whe oo aff swifuh wht jt pass?” The man looked at me for a moment and responded with a question in Spanish that I did not understand. My White Dade rage began to surface when I realized that, given my voice’s condition, I could have been speaking Icelandic for all this poor guy knew. And since everyone here just assumes everyone else is Hispanic, he answered me as such. When I asked him again, he made a gesture with his hands that looked somewhat like a box and said “Tres,” which I assumed meant aisle three.
So I go to Aisle three and it definitely was NOT where you’d find Swiffer Wet Jet pads, so I ask another lady who was stocking shelves. Again, unintelligible garble, and you know what she says to me? “I’m sorry, can you ask me in English?” Now I look pretty damn white. Blue eyes, brown/blonde hair, big nose. Not exactly the picture of a striking Latino Gentleman. But I guess in Miami, when you can’t understand what someone is saying, you assume that white-looking guy must just be Venezuelan or something. So, I summon up all the air and energy I can and ask “WHERE YOU HAVE SWIFFER WET JET PADS?” To which she responded. “Aisle 13. No, no, 12. Wait, no, 11. Yeah definitely 11.” I gave her a look that said “Would you please make up your mind,” which I would have verbalized had I had one operative vocal cord. I later realized she took this to mean I didn’t understand her English response.
So I journey back to aisle 11 and I see nothing but 2-liter bottles of soda and some bottled water. And who should be standing at the end of the aisle but my friend from before who sent me to the saran wrap aisle to buy Wet Jet pads. So I ask him again, this time straining my last vocal cord. He looks at me for a moment, unable to comprehend what I was asking and I said “The place you sent me before didn’t have it,” which came out “Th play oo sen meh fo did haa t.” Again, the quizzical look and a response in Spanish. “ENGLISH, PLEASE!” I yelled at him. I didn’t mean to yell, mind you, but it was the only way I could get any sound out of my throat. He looked, and said “Okay, one minute,” and left. This is Miami Non-English Speaking Store Employee for “I’m not dealing with you because you refuse to learn Spanish, so I’m going to pretend to go find my manager (aka the only guy in here who speaks English) but really I’m going to go back to stocking Listerene on Aisle 9 and let you find whatever-the-fuck it is you’re looking for on your own.” I am convinced Miami is an old Indian word meaning “Land of Poor Customer Service.”
So, eventually I go back to the “American” woman on aisle three and mouth to her “It wasn’t on aisle 11.” To which she replies, ‘I told you it was in the aisle next to aisle 11. If you learned English you might have known that.” I mouthed “Gracias,” to her and made my way to aisle 10, marked “escobas/fregonas,” which, as everyone else in the store but me knew, meant “brooms and mops.” There, among the escobas and fregonas I finally found my compresas de Swiffer Wet Jet. Elated, I purchased my cleaning supplies and proceeded to spend the remainder of the night scouring my apartment.
I don’t know which was worse, spending half an hour at Publix trying to communicate without a voice in a language I won’t speak, or spending four hours surrounded by bleach and noxious fumes. Either way I am still without a voice and am now developing a cold right in time for my six and a half hour plane ride to Seattle on Wednesday. Probably a good thing, as I’ll have an excuse for not talking to anyone at Thanksgiving. In any language.