Not long ago, I found myself in line at the airport, ready to show my ID and get my boarding pass. In front of me was an Asian man having a bit of an issue with the gal behind the counter. I missed the beginning of their conversation, but her voice got louder and I heard her ask, “When does your passport expire?” to which he replied, “No understand.” So, of course she repeated the exact same words, only louder, which of course didn’t get her any better response. His computer case sported the logo of a high tech firm, and I thought to myself that when he wasn’t dealing with customer service people who were clueless, he was probably inventing the next great device I’d look forward to using.
It was getting obvious to me that no one was having fun just then, so I stepped up, excused myself, looked the gentleman in the eye, and said, very gently, “Very sorry. When. Passport. No good.” I figured, the sane way I’d recognize French or Spanish for simple words, hopefully he’d understand “no good.” He understood immediately, looked down at his passport, smiled, and showed the agent the date. As he pointed, he pronounced, “Expiration Date.” The agent was probably having a bad day, as she just went about her business and gave him his ticket. No apology for shouting at this customer, and not a word of thanks to me when it was my turn after he left. I sometime think about how even speaking the same language we have trouble communicating. Sometimes words are ambiguous, other times, we just aren’t listening. Just my thought for today.