Houston, we have a problem

Maybe my first sign should have been the Fox News Channel store at the airport.

I had a layover in Houston for a few hours on my way to New Orleans. This would be my first trip ever to The South! It was about 3 p.m. local time and the lunch I had proudly packed so as to save money had been consumed for breakfast on my first flight. (Note to self: next time proudly back both breakfast and lunch). 

So, I was looking for something to eat while waiting for my now-slightly-delayed flight to NOLA.

I found a deli-type area that had pre-made sandwiches and salads among other items. I was eyeing the sandwiches but they came with a $10 price tag! The cost included fries and when I asked one of the workers if I could get the sandwich without fries, the response was “yes, you can but the price will be the same.” Ugh.

I walked around the corner to see what other food options were available. The man who earlier gave me the answer about the sandwiches costing the same with or without fries appeared again and matter-of-factly pointed to the sushi counter and suggested I get that. 

“I’m sure you like sushi,” he said. (Or, something relatively similar to that sentence). 

I was speechless. I was stunned. I was annoyed. I was angry. 

Just because I am Asian doesn’t mean I’ll eat sushi all the time! And at the Houston airport of all places??

I don’t really give a response to this man. Then he continues with, “Are you Chinese?”

Oh my goodness. He needs to stop talking. I’m just hungry and want to buy a sandwich not for 10 dollars!

I sternly say “no” and am ready to walk away but he continues to “poke at my ethnicity.” What are you? Oh, you’re Japanese or Japanese-American? Do you speak Japanese? What generation are you?

Yes, he asked me all of these questions. I was ready to ask him if he wanted my DOB and SS number as well. What was this?? An interrogation? You work at a major airport so surely I must not be the only Asian you have come across!!

“Turns out” this middle-aged white man happened to be one-quarter Japanese. Well, this is what he told me. And, because I believe what people say, I believe that he was. (Though from first appearance, he does not look multi-racial. But, lots of people are multi-racial and you cannot necessarily tell). 

Even though this man was also Asian, I don’t think it makes it right for him to assume I would want to eat sushi or to even ask me what my race is. 

Worst of all, when he rung me up at the cash register, while he punched in the numbers on the keypad, he says he’s going to give me a discount. I’m confused as to what he means by this. Then he adds, “from one Asian to another!” 

He gave me 10 percent off my sandwich for being Asian. 

Something’s not right here. 

And, I’m too tired to elaborate or analyze this awkward interaction any further. 

Besides, it’s dinner time so I better go start cooking some rice for my sushi!

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2 thoughts on “Houston, we have a problem

  1. I cannot explain how much this kind of person has bothered me my entire life! I grew up in a predominantly white town and went to a small, private school where I was literally the only minority (literally!) and whenever someone new would join our class they would ask – I guess because kids are curious – “are you chinese?” and when I would say no they would ask “are you Japanese” and so many times the third question after me saying no would be, “then what ARE you?” I guess I’m a freak. Or at least that’s how the question always made me feel. I’m Korean, but apparently the only two kinds of asian are chinese and japanese to many people. I’m kind of surprised and sad to say that this line of questioning has followed me into adult hood. There are way too many people like Airport guy in the world. They don’t mean to be offensive, but they are.

    Naturally, the next line of questioning, as mentioned in your post, revolves around the language. “Oh, do you speak Korean?” to which I respond “no” and then I always get the shocked “What?! Why!” (especially from other asian people). When I say I was adopted (by a white family when I was just 3 months old) that leads to a whole different line of questioning that people don’t seem to understand is quite personal. *sigh*

    I hope you have a great time in NOLA and meet lots of friendly people!

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