A harried young mother in the Upper Midwest, USA makes a phone call and keeps her fingers crossed. A careful voice at the other end says,
“Good day to you! What should we discuss about?”
Her heart sinks. She realizes she has reached a call center in India. Resignedly she says,
“I have a computer problem.”
The young Indian woman’s heart sings. Her previous USA caller had asked ‘How y’all doing?’ and the operator had politely polled everyone around her workspace before a savvy co-worker told her it was just a conventional southern US dialect idiom for ‘Hi’.
The young midwest mother, striving for good international relations, asks brightly, “How are you guys?”
The operator, a female singular, had never before been confused for a male plural, and attempts to raise the timbre of her voice and make sure she sounds like one woman talking.
“What is your good name, Mrs.?” she asks.
The midwest mom wonders why the poor woman suddenly sounds like a hamster on helium. But she gives her name and explains her problem.
“OK. Well, I started my computer and then I went to put the brats in the crock pot for this hot dish. I ran to go by Grandma’s house first–she lives just kiddycorner from us– and see if she could borrow me some onions. I came back and grabbed a pop from the frigerator and checked the computer and it was just making this funny noise and then it gave a pop and the screen went blank.”
Silence comes from across several oceans and continents as the Indian woman flips desperately back and forth through her English phrase book. She wonders if naughty children placed in pots is a viable American disciplinary measure.
She eliminates ‘father’ from the item taken from the ice box and eliminates ‘carbonated beverage’ from the sound issued by the computer and works her way through the rest of the nearly indecipherable sentence.
“Blessed Americans don’t know how to speak English”, she mutters, then asks brightly, “OK! I can help! Do one thing. Turn off computer. Unplug computer from power source. Hold down ‘alt’ and ‘shift’ key while turning computer back on.”
Midwest Mom looks at the phone in confusion. Which one thing was she supposed to do in the list? Why couldn’t Indians speak English? She decides to try each one thing in the list and is rewarded by a rejuvenated computer. The Indian operator hears a jubilant shout and Midwest Mom says something that sounds like:
“Hey! It works! Good stuff! Gotta run- Ant Bev is here and we have some cyupons to clip!” The young Indian coughs slightly as she pictures a bevy of cyupon ants invading the home of this nice young American who is armed only with clippers.
Midwest Mom, hearing the cough, says, “Maybe you should get a drink from the bubbler. And if I was a pain- Sari!”
They each hang up. The Indian operator debates figuring out how bubbles could help a cough and if why the conversation ended with a reference to native Indian apparel. She turns to her coworker.
“Uff man. Americans are so hard to understand!”
Midwest Mom greets her aunt at the door.
“Uff da! Those Indian operators are so hard to understand!”