Saturday, October 15, 2016

In Which I Am Momentarily Asian

The call was long and complex, involving a difficult personal situation with tax ramifications, and I was moderately proud at having navigated the shoals and brought the ship to shore despite both the technical difficulties and the anger of the person being helped. At the end she expressed surprise that after she'd spent " a hundred hours on the phone before this..." she had this issue resolved by me and now.

She sounded genuinely grateful and I was feeling a happy glow, until she asked the last question. "Mr. Winn, does your last name begin with 'N'?"

Inside, I gasped. Something about her tone told me where she was going with this, and I didn't want to come along.

"What do you mean?" I temporized. Mistake.

 She said, "Well, you solved this really well, so I just thought your last name must begin with an 'N'".

"Well, you know, it doesn't matter," I said, not wanting a fight, "No-one's sure who grandpa Winn really was, ha-ha" which is doubly true. First, I'd shortened my name from "Winnie" long ago, and second, we're pretty sure grandpa was a sailor named "Raab"; Mr. Winnie was not my father's bio-dad. (That generation doesn't seem to have been any more regular in their behavior than is this one).

"Well, I can tell," she forged on, as I tried to decide if I could accidentally drop the call, "You're not as stupid as the other people I'd talked to, so I thought your name started with 'N'".

I don't experience racism often. Older white males in Seattle doesn't get hit with anything but ageism for the most part. And here I was being stereotyped as being a supersmart Asian "Nguyen".

Understand, this wasn't *bad* like getting beat up or insulted or pawed at by a creepy orange rich guy. My WMP is a privilege indeed. But it was still strange; because of my name and competence, I was suspected of being one of those magically skillful Asian servants, like Bruce Lee's Kato (only with taxes).

What to say? "Well, it's spelled like 'Winnie-the-Pooh' actually," which was a secret joke because that was my birth name. "Can I help you with anything else today?" And the call mercifully ended.

 I'm not sure what to think of this, but it is what happened