Sunday, April 19, 2015

Easy to Translate

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  In the last few years, this area has become home to a few dozen Nepalese and Bhutanese refugee families.  I often see them in the fabric store, often in multi-generational groups.  Yesterday, a grandmother, father, and two teenaged girls came in together.  Grandma was traditionally dressed in loose trousers, tunic, overshirt.  Dad had a foot in each culture:  tunic shirt with khakis.  And the girls looked like the teens you'd see anywhere in your own neighborhood, shirts emblazoned with the name of the stores where they were purchased, yoga pants, hoodies.  I don't know what they needed fabric for, but the teenagers headed straight for the spangles and sparkles and shiny special occasion stuff.  Grandma headed to cottons.  Dad just looked a little bewildered, like any dad would.  Grandma spoke no English at all.  Dad spoke enough to get through the day, as did the girls.  Eventually (and they were in the store for a long time) they come to the counter with four bolts of fabric:  two red cottons with tiny prints, a red satin, and a gold mesh heavily embellished with gold sequins.  The girls immediately pull out their phones text text text text.  Dad is left to translate.  Grandma is annoyed.  Families are families.  First bolt:  Two meters.  I do the conversion, measure... there's just a little more on the bolt than that.  Dad stops me, confers with Grandma and girls.  They take the whole piece of fabric.  (Grandma is now visibly annoyed with the teens, who are not being Good Helpers text text text.)  Three meters, no, Yardsplease, of the second red.  Done and done.  Up comes the gold fancy.  Dad asks the price, I check it for him.  "One meter."  I measure, cut, fold.  My counter is sprinkled with bits of gold sequins.  I brush them into a pile, sweep them into the palm of my hand.  I catch Grandma's eye, and hold my closed hand out to her.  She puts her hand out, rather confused.  I sprinkle the glittery bits into her open hand. They sparkle as they fall.  She looks at me, breaks out into a huge grin, and laughs out loud.  Dad smiles.  Teenagers look at me like I've just fallen on my head.  Some things cross cultures.  Pixie dust is one of them.

I love my job.

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