Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm So Sorry, I Don't Think I Fully Caught Your Racial Slur.

Overnighting in Aqaba to provide support for the Ambassador's trip, I tried out my Arabic on the fellow at the hotel front desk. After about two sentences ("I'd like to pay for my room." "Do you take credit cards?") he expressed a desire to use his English. Being the consummate diplomat, I assented.

"Your Arabic is good."

"Thank you." ...for your kind lie, I added silently. "It's hard to find a chance to practice, since so many people I meet speak English." This last bit I had to say twice, since my attempt in Arabic didn't come across the first time.

"Yes, I try to always practice my English." He shot me a smile which could only be termed as 'beaming'. "I like to learn from the niggers."

"Oh?" I tried to sound nonchalant, but ended up somewhere closer to 'horrifically caught off guard'. Perhaps I had misheard..? "Oh?" I repeated hopefully.

"You know, Tupac, Fifty Cent." He began humming a refrain I could not identify and made some motions I could only assume were dance moves; a picture of my face at that moment would have made an excellent Stuff White People Like entry. "I know it's not good English, but..." he shrugged, still beaming.

"Well, it's not standard." I considered how best to let him know that the 'n-word' wasn't exactly standard, either. He was clearly very proud to have formed this insight into American culture. I shifted from one foot to the other and gave a bit of a throat-clearing cough. "You know..."

"Oh, here's your credit card back!"

Another fine diplomatic moment goes down in the annals of history.