I admit it. I don't have a friendly face. Sure, I ham it up sometimes and play the misanthrope card. But really, I don't go out of my way to cause my fellow man any grief. I'm just not the smiling kind.
I think some of it comes from having bad teeth. For a long time they were not so wonderful and often hurt. That doesn't leave you feeling too smiley. They're mostly fixed now, but old habits die hard.
Even my wife, who you might think would be used to it by now, routinely asks me "what's wrong?" Nothing, dear. Just my face. Really, it's just my natural, neutral expression. I've tried to look a little more sunny, but it felt stupid, and probably looked stupid too. Maybe I should get a t-shirt made: I don't hate the world. It just looks that way.
The market where I shop is primarily Hispanic: staff and clientele. The cashiers' English is usually atrocious, but what does that matter? They get the job done and, after all, I'm not there to have a deep philosophical debate. We understand each other enough to conduct our business.
I don't mind waiting in line too much, if I'm by myself and not in a hurry. I let my mind roam where it will, or even shut down for a while. Some days, if you looked into my eyes, you'd probably see a test-pattern. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.
On the day in question, I was roused from my reverie by a burst of rapid-fire Spanglish. Huh? Wha? I struggled to get my bearings. Yes, the cashier was talking to me. He was concerned. What had just happened? What did I miss?
A produce clerk who had been waiting to go on break joined in. Two simultaneous streams of Spanglish now. I felt an urge to hold both sides of my brain together physically. They were both apologizing. Okaaaay? A few key words stood out. Aha! They're apologizing because they think I'm mad that the clerk wants to cut into the line to buy food for his break.
No, go ahead. No problem.
It was all clear now. I tried not to laugh until I was out. I guess I had been staring at that produce clerk. Sort of. Evidently, my expression didn't translate well. They thought I was angry about the line. Here's what I was actually thinking:
Oooh, that guy has a papaya...It's a nice ripe one, too...I didn't see any papayas over in produce...I haven't had a papaya in a long time...Maybe I should run back and get one...Or should I go through the line again...I wonder if...
Then the Spanglish started. Well, these things happen. Maybe I should look into getting that t-shirt printed up, in English and Spanish, of course. Sometimes things get lost in translation.