The lady at the Chinese restaurant thinks I’m a doctor.
Once a week (usually on Wednesday, for whatever reason), I go to the Happy Dragon Chinese Buffet, which is just a few miles away from where I work downtown. The building it’s in was formerly the New Orleans House, which was an up-scale seafood restaurant, with at least two locations here in Kentucky (although I don’t think either is in business any longer). Keeping in line with what I perceive to be the standard inattention to detail (and, probably more importantly, a low-overhead) apparent in so many American Chinese restaurants, the various rooms inside the Happy Dragon still have brass nameplates on the walls indicating the room names, such as “Bourbon Street Room,” “French Quarter Room” and “Orleans Room," despite the fact that the Happy Dragon has been in the place for about ten years now. (Strangely, there’s no “Ninth Ward Room.” Go figure.)
Anyway, the restaurant is broken up into four sections, which comprise three different rooms (there is a fourth room, but I rarely ever see it used). Each of the four sections has one server, and it’s the same four servers, in the same four sections, every single day. I typically only go at lunch during the week, so I suppose it’s possible these four people simply work the lunch crowd every day, and then go home. But I went on a Saturday night a few weeks ago, and it was the same four servers, in the same four sections. My impression is that these four individuals work seven days a week, lunch and dinner. And considering that at a place like a Chinese buffet, they probably average about 10% on their tips, they must be working a lot of hours, for not much pay.
Only one of the four servers speaks what I would call “conversational” English. The others are either too shy to do much in the way of speaking English to the guests, or they simply aren’t that fluent in the language. It’s probably a combination of both. The last two times I’ve been in there, I’ve had the one server who is not shy about speaking to the guests in English. She always greets me with a smile and asks me how I’m doing, and then says good-bye to me when I leave. On one past occasion, we even had a discussion about her kids (she has three), and she told me my kids were both beautiful (that was on a trip with the whole family).
Today, I brought my Anatomy & Physiology textbook with me, figuring I would use my time at lunch to review for my test on the endocrine system tonight. As I was sitting there eating and reading over the highlighted parts of the chapter, she walked by and said something to me. I couldn’t understand what she said, so I looked up at her and asked her to repeat herself. She said it again, and I still couldn’t tell what she was saying. However, it was apparent, from her voice inflection, that whatever she was asking me was a casual question to which she expected to have an affirmative response (sort of like when you see someone reading, and you walk up casually and say, “Hey, you doin' some reading?”) So I went ahead and just nodded and said yes. She smiled and nodded back and I turned back to my textbook.
No harm, no foul, right?
Well, as I started back into my notes, it dawned on me what she had said. She hadn’t used the right grammar, and she had said it with a heavy accent, but what she had said was: “Is you doctor?” She was asking me if I was a physician. I guess she could see that my book was a medical textbook of some type, and she either assumed I was a doctor reading up on some important subjects, or maybe she thought I was a medical student. Either way, by me telling her “Yes,” I effectively told her I was a doctor!
I always tip pretty well there anyway, because I know they must work a lot of hours for not much money (as I illustrated above), but now she’s really going to expect a nice tip! Not to mention, considering how friendly and open to conversing she usually is, I’m afraid now she might start asking me for medical advice!!
Although, as I said earlier, she speaks what I would call “conversational” English, she is by no means fluent or free of heavy accent when she speaks. So I’m not about to attempt to explain to her that I’m studying radiography, and not medicine.
Oh well. I’ll just start signing my receipts with an “M.D.” at the end.