With ev­ery res­tau­rant check, a chance to ‘save’

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - Write to Amy Dick­in­son at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michi­gan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611. © 2011 by the Chicago Tribune Dis­trib­uted by Tribune Me­dia Ser­vices

Dear Amy

I go out to eat withmy cousin once a month, andwe take turns pick­ing up the check.

When it is her turn to pay, she slides a re­li­gious pam­phlet in with the pay­ment, ad­vis­ing the­waiter or­wait­ress about what (ac­cord­ing to her re­li­gious be­liefs) it takes to be “saved.”

I find this pros­e­ly­tiz­ing of­fen­sive and feel that it re­flects on both of us, since she is pay­ing formy meal. It seems wrong to sub­ject the­waiter to a re­li­gious read­ing just to re­ceive pay­ment.

Any thoughts be­fore our next out­ing? It’s her turn to pay.

Of­fended

If these pam­phlets of­fend you, then you shouldn’t read them. They might not of­fend a waiter. You don’t men­tion talk­ing about this, but it sounds like an ideal topic for you two cousins to dis­cuss. Dear Amy

I dis­agree with your stance that it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to ask strangers about their eth­nic back­ground.

I have lived in sev­eral coun­tries in Africa and the Mid­dle East. When I ask some­one if Imay guess where they are from, they get ex­cited. They think they have al­ready won the game be­cause they know Amer­i­cans are painfully ig­no­rant about geog­ra­phy.

When I guess cor­rectly, they are thrilled that I knowtheir coun­try and where it is lo­cated. Thenwe of­ten have a friendly chat about their coun­try.

Many, many timeswhen Iwas liv­ing abroad Iwas asked if Iwas Bri­tish. I am Amer­i­can and I could eas­ily pass for Cana­dian, but Iwas never of­fended by their in­cor­rect guess.

El­iz­a­beth

An Amer­i­can “eas­ily pass­ing for Cana­dian” is dif­fer­ent from some­one ap­proach­ing a stranger in a su­per­mar­ket and guess­ing a per­son’s eth­nic her­itage— at least inmy mind.

Many peo­ple com­mented on this is­sue, and while those who re­sponded agree with you that Amer­i­cans are ig­no­rant

about world geog­ra­phy, al­most no one wel­comed queries from strangers. Dear Amy

“Baf­fled in Brook­lyn” won­dered why young peo­ple re­spond by say­ing “No prob­lem” when­ever he says “Thank you.”

He seems to suf­fer from GVD: gen­er­a­tional vo­cab­u­lary dis­or­der.

“No prob­lem” is the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion’s ver­sion of “You’rewel­come.”

Baf­fled’s fa­ther, as a young man, might have re­sponded: “Aw, shucks, it­was nothin’,” af­ter hav­ing been thanked.

In­ci­den­tally, “No prob­lem” ex­presses a sen­ti­ment ex­tremely close to the Span­ish equiv­a­lent of “You’rewel­come”: “De nada,” which lit­er­ally means, “Of noth­ing” or, more loosely, “It is noth­ing.”

Sweet Talker

Many read­ers com­pared “No prob­lem” to “De nada,” and I agree that these sweet “noth­ings” are equiv­a­lent.

Most im­por­tant, “Baf­fled” pointed out that the lo­cal teenagers of­ten help him out, prompt­ing his thanks— and that’s not “noth­ing,” that’s great. Dear Amy

Your ef­fort to per­suade read­ers to give books to chil­dren for Christ­mas is laud­able.

My par­ents gave books to us. Nowmy sib­lings and I give books to our chil­dren. I hon­estly feel that this is the most sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity for learn­ing and growthwe have of­fered our kids.

Happy Reader

I amde­lighted to say thatmy ef­fort to put a “Book on Ev­ery Bed” has been a run­away suc­cess.

The re­sponse has been over­whelm­ing and the tes­ti­mo­ni­als, amaz­ing. I’ll run some of these letters in fu­ture col­umns.

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