Sit down, we are calling a Translator!

(Gulf tourists and French locals on the Champs in Paris...added here...just because...)

Okay, apparently I must look like I’m fresh off the boat or something…because yesterday when I went to a optometrist at one of the hospitals in the city (Eye specialist) for a fairly routine eye exam (unfortunately my eyes changed a lot in Saudi-and not for the better, ugh!) I had a rather interesting and I have to admit-a FIRST in my book-experience.


I had on my fairly normal attire (for me) of a sleeved chador-e melli over a turquoise scarf, purse and flats. Pretty average and good for the sun, heat and humidity…you know, comfort is essential.

So I go into the office…and sign in, no one is behind the counter when I do so, so I take a seat because its right after lunch time, I figured someone would be back shortly. After a few minutes one of the receptionists comes back and sits down, she looked a bit on the older side. So I walk up to the desk and before I could EVEN say *one word* she looks up, stands up and beckons to a seat and says really loudly “Please-take-a-seat-we-are-calling-a-TRANSLATOOORRRR-for-you” and I was sort of dumb founded and kind of lost my voice for a fraction of a second because I wasnt sure if she was-uh, pullin’ my leg or what, so after I regained my brain I said…’Excuse me?” and then she repeated it again-even louder!  At this point other people were in the waiting room and I looked around like…who? Me????

Then I said…Uh, a translator for what? You mean me? why? I’m just here for my appointment…and then she says back to me (not a bright cookie, eh)…Oh, dont u need a translator? Cuz we are calling one for you!

Like um, OK…if I NEEDED a translator then how the heck could I say what I just said? huh?

So I am not entirely sure what I sai at that point, but I know I was getting really irked and probably let slip 1 or 2 not so nice words…ahem…so finally the woman-*understood* that I spoke English perfectly fine and wasn’t really a foreigner in need of a translator-LOL- and we proceeded with the check in.

BUT I really wanted to be snarky and ask…so, um, what language translator did u wanna call up? Since I didnt even say anything… and eegads…why the heck did she think I needed a translator? This is a major hospital in a huge city with many, many, many Muslims in the area…like wha? I’mma the first hejabi that ever walked through that place?

I’m still a bit in shock and awe over the whole thing.

I told my husband afterwards and he laughed and said, maybe they get a LOT of Saudis and Gulf Arabs up there for eye exams (unfortunately eye problems are RAMPANT in the Gulf due to sand and the intense sun and so hence, probably many of the students and their families when they come here for school do go to the eye center)

…so I guess…hypothetically I *could* see that maybe she saw the black overgarment and assumed I was fresh off the boat from the Gulf. Granted I dont look like a Gulf ‘Arab…but in theory…I dunno…yet still, I would hence have asked for an interpretor or brought a family member along…right…????

ah, people…people…people.


6 thoughts on “Sit down, we are calling a Translator!

  1. Salams

    I had a laugh while reading that. :)) I had similrar experiences in the past at supermarket checkout points. However, I am mediterranean, so I can understand the stereotype, but you! LOL and especially after you spoke to her in perfect English. She must be a slow cookie, yeah :)) cos after responding in perfect English the response I would get was a slight shock and embarrassment hahaha thanks for sharing that 🙂

  2. How annoying, but I must admit, I got a good laugh out of this.

    And yeah, what kind of translator were they getting for you?? Weird!

  3. Salamz, Sis-

    Oh, boy- I know what that feels like! I’ve never had anyone say they were getting an interpreter for me, but I’ve frequently had the experience of people assuming I can’t speak English and that I’m “foreign”- hehe. I’m a pale skinned, green-eyed blonde caucasian, but for some reason as soon as I’m covered in an abaya and hijab suddenly I become a conundrum.
    Once I was going through passport control after a flight from London UK to Newark NJ when the border control officer asked me “do you speak English?”. Well, I was tired from the long flight and already predisposed to dislike him because of his rude treatment of an elder Pakistani couple who couldn’t understand him- he just shouted at them as if they were dogs! So I’m afraid I lost it a bit. Plus he was obviously from an immigrant background himself and spoke with a distinct Hispanic accent, so just who did he think he was?! So, I replied “Yes sir, I speak English, better than you!” hehe I uess some people would be surprised to learn that I actually have a BA first class in English Literature and that (at one time) I was doing a PhD in Critical Theory- yeah. Put that in your shisha and smoke it!
    The other related assumption is that a woman who dresses like that is “uneducated”- we must all come from poor, third-world countries where women are illiterate and uninformed baby factories, forced to stay inside and to cover when we go out by those horrible men who run our lives and keep us down and dumb- right? hehe, yeah, right.

  4. ROFL! If you really needed a translator how would you understand her saying sit down we are calling a translator? I hate how people think if they speak in a slow patronising tone to people who cannot speak english; then they will understand them. I get this a lot but interestingly a lot of it is from other Muslims assuming I am Arab or Irani, the top countries I get mistaken for are Irani and Moroccan. For some bizarre reason, one neighbour who saw me sans niqab who is Somali thought I was Somali; ok I have seen some very light skinned Somalis and there are a couple of minority groups in Somalia who could pass for Spanish or Italian but I am very pale with blue eyes. The good thing is hardly anyone thinks I am a revert (even more so since I started wearing overheads et al) so I don’t get those annoying qs regarding was it my husband that brought me to Islam and so on.

  5. I never have gotten that experience because after the first look plus my first “Good morning, Im blah blah”; they straighten up. Sometimes people think my husband is African until he talks. With his native New Yorker accent.
    We have so much fun.

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