Along for the ride:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Does anyone speak Turkey?

One of this week's necessary evils was a visit to our local Department of Motor Vehicles to request a replacement California Driver's License  for "The Artistic One". Despite his laying of blame for the latest loss at the feet of the last Highway Patrol Officer who, not only ticketed him for using his phone whilst driving, but neglected to make sure he put his license back in his wallet.
It was still obligatory to appear in person with his application, to sign in the presence of a DMV employee, and to present proof of his legal identity in the form of picture I.D. otherwise known as a U.S. Passport. I had tried to make an appointment but the DMV schedule was full beyond The Artistic One's departure date for his trip to France so we joined the multi-cultural masses and took a number to await our turn.
I am implicated in these bureaucratic marathons as I would never inflict my French speaking husband on an unsuspecting government employee and would also never let him out of my sight with important paper-work that might be lost, shredded, or bartered for a facsimile of  a French salami and baguette, if it happened to be near lunch time.
T.A.O. is off to his home turf next Thursday, depending on the ability of planes to land in the country of Freedom, Brotherhood and Equality,  where a general strike is an ongoing menace. Students who have never worked a day in their lives are revolting about the need to work until they are sixty-two. T.A.O's seventy-fifth birthday is but a twinkle in his rear-view mirror and we just moved our business to a new location with the intention of re-inventing ourselves one more time. We also respect the journalist from French-speaking North Africa who commented that his readers' life expectancy was fifty-five so they had a hard time taking these "Manifestations" seriously. But I digress...
As the Artist's eyes closed and a gentle snore arose from the chair next to me I clutched my ticket, number G102 and watched the clock and the people around me. I saw several burgundy colored Euro-passports proffered to the clerks. They seemed to provoke very long wait times as finger prints were entered into the system and interim, temporary papers were doled out with instructions to return with additional documentation. I was not close enough to define accents or nationalities but everyone appeared to be understanding one another.
Everything ground to a halt as a young man took his turn at one of the numbered counters. He was tall and slender, dressed as one who does manual labor, and his face wore stubble which may have been fashionable or due to his not getting out of bed early enough that day. He leaned forward in a gesture of cooperation and the young woman who was destined to help him tried both her English and Spanish language skills, to no avail.
In desperation, she called out to all in attendance, "Does anyone speak Turkey?"
How can someone be so unaware of the other cultures of the world that they don't know that "Turkish" or "Turk" might be acceptable but "Turkey" is what we eat at Thanksgiving?
How can someone who does not speak a word of English be so arrogant as to assume that he would be accommodated without bringing an interpreter?
Darwin, where are you?


  1. Was she perchance thinking of the phrase "Talk Turkey"?

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  3. Ah, the glories of bureaucracy. NJ Motor Vehicle has improved a bit over the years, but when you hit the agency at the wrong time....

    Now, that "Turkey guy"....well, fact is, none of it really surprises me, having worked as a teacher for many years. It would be amazing how a parent who did not speak English would arrive at school--or better yet, call the school--and somehow figure we would have a translator on hand. We were fine for Spanish, but after that, it was rather a challenge.

    And as for the Turkey talk? Just another one of those great illustrations of the level of cultural literacy here in the USA...Hey, it's a bit surprising she figured out where he was from by reading his passport--I guess. That was a comparatively sophisticated bit of detective work. *G*

    But it surely does make for a funny story! Now, the question is, just how many of the people in the agency found it as funny as you did? Bet most of them wouldn't even get the joke.

  4. Speak Turkey? "What - gobble gobble oh God it's not Thanksgiving again is it?" Good grief!

  5. Oh ER, you tell such an excellent story. Wry, dry and pointy-barbed.
    If you don't mind, I'm going to borrow your line about the students not having worked a day in their lives. And pass on the one from the Algerian journalist tonight at dinner. After weeks of images of blockades of all sorts, torched cars and self-righteous CGT spokespeople (not to mention those students with their wealth of life experience) I find myself spouting stuff that sounds suspiciously rightist.

    The 'talk Turkey' is eye-rolling, but funny. I hope somebody laughed out loud.

  6. I speak chucky, do it everyday when I'm feeding the hens!!

  7. In California each side expects more than they are willing to do themselves in my opinion. I remember waiting in DMV places all through my life there. I grew up there, moved away just before my last child was born, back to CA again two more times. It is so different in CA. You have more patience than I do.

  8. The Merry, Unfortunately, I would have my doubts that she had heard of the term "Talk Turkey" either.

    Jean, As DMV's go, ours is not bad. The staff are polite and hardworking and things move along as fast as possible. Her call for a "Turkey Speaker" made me cringe with embarrassment for her.

  9. Steve, the minute we get through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Turkey's are all we can think about. I think it is a more important family tradition here than Christmas.

  10. Deborah, French TV station has a Sunday gathering of journalists, from around the world, who discuss current world events from their country's view point. It is very interesting. "Kiosque" is the name.

    Di, but you know you're doing it and do so on purpose. Are your Chuckys bilingual?

    TechnoBabe, California doesn't recognize that it is a different world. It thinks it is THE WORLD! To be fair, a certain Artistic One has been heard to complain: "I've been here twenty-five years, and they haven't changed the national language to French yet."

  11. I'm not surprised at the lack of cultural intelligence in the bureaucracy over here. Even with a slight North of England accent, I struggle in these situations, having spent many a long hour with the said ticket in my hand waiting on deliverance ( or service, which ever came first).
    Great post.

  12. Legend, (Love your name, by the way) I suppose it surprises me just because we are so many cultures here. One would think that would add, not subtract, from knowledge of one another.

  13. Another quote from Douglas Adams - he invented a computer game some years ago called Beaurocracy. The idea of the game was to get your bank to acknowledge a change of address.

    Turkey sounds like quite a fun language actually - perhaps Dr Doolittle could advise? (Rex Harrison - DEFINATELY NOT Eddie Murphy)

  14. Hungry Pixie, I hadn't thought of expanding my languages beyond Horse, Cat and Dog. How small minded of me. How many animal languages must one master before being upgraded to travel by pink sea snail?

  15. Hehe, yes they're french hens, but speak english too. Obviously I only speak to them in chucky.

  16. May T.A.O. have a wonderful trip, if his flight can get here, and if he can find further transport after arriving. Trains have been on strike too, and gas is still hard to find for cars, though the liars on the evening news say it's getting better.

    Talk turkey ! That's rich. I had a photographic conversation the other day with a dead wild turkey that had gotten run down on the road, but that's the closest I've come to talking turkey lately.

    Hope the new place is going ok...

    @ Deborah, you are not the only one who is being driven to spouting off some further and further rightist sounding stuff. I am so sick of what is going on here of late I'm beyond words. Idiots everywhere. Marseille today has 8000 tons of garbage accumulating on the streets because the trash collectors are on strike too. Place Bellecour in Lyon was sacked... what a disgrace. And what do the police and the government do ? Diddly squat. Spoiled rotten people. Love the remark about life expectancy in Africa.

    Ok, I'll shut up now... sorry for venting...

  17. Owen, Yes, we are keeping our options open regarding travel plans. It seems less and less likely that TAO will fly Thursday. He was in France during previous manifestations and would drive his rental car from one agency to the next to trade it in for a new vehicle with a full tank.
    p.s. Comments and ripostes are welcome, without them a blog is just an unseen flag left flapping in the wind.

  18. I once overheard an American woman as an English man if Europe was in England...What's bad is that this was a serious question from her, a high school graduate...

    Another time, a professor in my graduate program made a remark to me that we live in a monolinguistic culture, a point I find objectionable since I am bilingual...

    Nice blog, by the way.

  19. e, We are fast approaching the time of year when someone always asks how we celebrate Thanksgiving in England:) I tell them it's right up there with our Fourth of July festivities.