Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do You Speak English, Alejandro?

I had an interview on Saturday. It began with an application to an Italian restaurant that is situated nearby. I got a call the next day from a man who was rambling at me in Italian for thirty seconds, before deciding to ask me "Do you speak Italiano?" I struggled to understand him as he spoke limited English down a crackly phone line, peppering his sentences with Italian words when, I guess, he didn't know the English equivalent. By picking up on key words such as "come in" and "day," I asked him if he wanted me to "choose a day" to come in. He misheard this as "Tuesday," and followed it with several "No's" before asking me to come in tomorrow at any time after twelve.

I strolled up to the Italian restaurant at about 1 o'clock the next day, and stood at that plinth fixture that they expect you to wait at before being seated. After a couple of minutes, I was approached by a waiter. "Hi, I'm here for an interview." He looked confused. 

"Two?" He asked, obviously not having the word "interview" in his vocabulary and assuming I was requesting a table. I repeated myself, slower and louder (the old foolproof method), to be met with a baffled stare. A woman then hurried in our direction to take over, and I informed her of my visit.

"Yes...?" She answered. "My name is Dolegirl," (obviously I said my real name) "and I have been invited here for an interview." The woman seemed to understand me, but looked as though I had come to the wrong place. I thought I had better name the bloke I spoke to yesterday, "I spoke to Rodrigo."

"No one called Rodrigo works here, " she replied. Oh shit. 

"Fernando?" I second guessed. The woman shook her head.

"Roberto?" I seemed to be reeling off the names that occur in that Lady GaGa song. After checking that I had come to the right restaurant, the woman said she would ask around. After an awkward wait in the doorway where I continued to try and work out the guy's name, the woman returned and told me "Antonio will be with you in a moment." 

I waited for ten minutes, watching the Italian waiters walk past me lackadaisically, wondering whether they should take my order or not. Eventually Antonio came out of hiding and led me to a table. "Are you English?" Was my first question he fired at me. Easy enough. He then asked me the same questions which he asked me on the phone: "Do you have experience?", "Did you serve Italian food?", and "Do you speak Italian?" He then rambled something and pointed to the cutlery on the table. I gave an equally rambled answer about customer service. I didn't think it mattered much as we both seemed to be pretending to understand each other. 

Antonio told me to come in on Monday and work a trial shift. I agreed and left. I didn't do it, and you may think I'm an idiot for doing so. Beggars can't be choosers and all that crap. But can you imagine the problems that would occur through not speaking the same language as your colleagues? Trying to explain that I was there for an interview was hard enough, never mind asking how the coffee machine works, or if table six got their meal, or did they remember that the child seated at table eight has a nut allergy. That is all my overactive imagination could think about.

Maybe beggars can't be choosers, but surely they can beg in their first language?

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