Once again, I had to go before a judge and once again for a traffic citation. However, that is not the story. The story is that the judge asked me if I needed a translator. “No Ma’am,” I said. But what I wanted to say instead was, “What makes you think I need a translator?” But it must have been my name as that was all the judge knew about me as she had just opened the folder with my name on it when she called me. Am I offended when I am asked if I need a translator? Maybe. But more so I am disappointed because I wonder if the judge, or anyone else for that matter who, “assumes” every person with a non-traditional English name needs a translator. I guess it could be possible that the judge asks every person but I know that every person with a non-traditional English name does not need a translator. Not to mention, how tiring it would be for me if I had to ask the same question just because some one was different. If so, then I should also be asking whether or not I can make direct eye contact or if you are of a different gender should I even be talking to you.
I thought that in a “melting pot” there is a single flavor and only a hint of each “individual” ingredient rather an overwhelming presence of any. But what do I know, it’s not like I am a chef. However, I am sure critics would say, “It’s not really all that much to ask for. What are a few extra words?” And those critics are right, what are a few extra words. My question is, why?
Here is another story. Years ago, I accompanied my parents to an appointment with their doctor and the nurse at the doctor’s office mentioned to me she was joining us to serve as a translator. Really? When I mentioned to the nurse I was okay with English the nurse replied, “You might not understand the medical terms.” Oh, really?
A statement that made me think, if English is my first language why would I not understand medical terms? Is the doctor incapable of explaining those medical terms in lay terms, as I am sure the doctor sees native English-speakers, like myself, as well? To avoid being confrontational, as so many describe my nature, I simply mentioned to the nurse that I would be okay.
Did the nurse know I was a nurse as well? Not sure, but not likely. But what does it matter? English is my first language. Again, how are other English-speakers spoken to with regard to medical terms? Being a nurse or not should not matter.
So then, was the nurse’s thought, or better yet the lack of thought, that I might not understand the medical terms because of my parent’s last name? Because what else could it have been? Otherwise the nurse would have to accompany the doctor for those who speak English well also if the medical terms were the issue.
To critics, the title of my Master’s thesis was “Hospital Admission Rates from the Emergency Department of English and Non-English Speaking Hispanic Patients with Chest Pain.” The purpose of my thesis was to highlight the higher admission rate of patients with chest pain due to language barriers and miscommunication, which leads to multifaceted losses of resources and potentially unnecessary negative outcomes. One of the thesis’ many recommendations was to employ translators, by telephone or person, for each interaction between healthcare worker and non-English-speaking patients whenever communication was a barrier. So I get it.
Because of that, maybe, just maybe, I believe I might know a thing or two about what the nurse was inferring to. And although with good intent rather than malice the nurse was not being genuine as to why. On that note, what about the judge, did she also think I might not understand her “legalize” terminology as well?
As for the nurse, although I understand the point of making sure patients understand what is being said I do NOT agree with the suggested reasoning that it was about understanding the medical terminology. As all healthcare workers, doctors included, want patients to understand EVERYTHING they were being told, even with native English speakers. And why as healthcare workers we explain things in lay terms and at an eighth grade level.
On that note, rather making an ass of myself I rather wait until the person says something in the neighborhood of, “No spicking Inglish [sic]”. Or the person looks confused, as if I were speaking Cantonese, and has no idea what I am saying. Because after all (1) I would not be speaking Cantonese, (2) it is very unlikely anyone around us was speaking Cantonese, (3) there is no reason to speak Cantonese as no one near us is speaking Cantonese, (4) other than the word Cantonese, I know NO Cantonese words, (5) and lastly, although not an absolute reason but rather an assumption, and unfortunately how we got here and why I should not mention it, other than lastly, I do not look or have a name as if I spoke Cantonese. Nonetheless, rather make a big deal out of it I simply, again, simply, and I emphasize simply, said to the nurse, “I will be fine.” And did not say another word as I followed the doctor and my parents into the doctor’s office, the nurse disappearing.
Because what if instead of the Torres’ we were the Smith’s, would the nurse still fill compelled to have to translate the doctor’s “medicalize”? Her concern, so she claimed, was that I, and likely my parents, of which she would be right and the reason I was present, might not understand the medical terms. However, I cannot tell you the number of those of us for who English is our first language, many well educated, who may not know what “choleducolithiasis” or “salpingoopherectomy” is either. Yet, I have not witnessed the barrage of nurses who shadow those whose first language is English to make sure the doctor is explaining it to them in lay terms they will understand, unless, of course, our names are different.
All that to get here, “Please stop helping us”. Not my words but the title of a book by Jason L. Riley, who, much better than I mentioned in “The Customer is NEVER Right”, points out in his book that helping us, those who are different (minorities), does not really help us. Instead what it does is sets us back to be dependent of others. I realize others will argue to the contrary, however, I would caution against those idiotologies as I find those idiotologies, of helping us, to be more exploitive than beneficial. Again, just my two sense [sic].
As for the traffic citation, and a bit of comic relief, yes, a speeding ticket. Why else? As usual, I paid it without a word and for no reason other than I see it as a conciliatory jester for ALL(!) the speeding I did not get cited for. And not just the one or two, or even ten, but the LOTS more I was not cited, like every time I turn the engine on, yes, that many more. Making the jester even more conciliatory for speeding WAY(!) above the ones I do get busted for. So, because of that, I never complain when I do get busted. Actually, I rather get caught at 17mph above the posted speed limits than getting busted at 30 or 40 mph (by no means the top speeds but the most common infractions) above posted speeds.