Hows ya doin today?
In the US, you will be greeted all the time by people especially when you go to shops, restaurants or hotels. And its not just a smile or a Hello. Its a good
Hi, How are you doing today?
In India we are not used to this behavior. The first time when I went to US I found this a bit irritating and funny. Most of the time when I used to go to a store I wouldn’t expect them to say anything but then when they used to say something, suddenly I would go “HUH, Sorry?” (nincompoop). In New York it was difficult for me to understand the accent of African Americans in the first place. The unexpected greetings just made it worse. But then towards the end of my stay in Santa Monica, I finally got conditioned to this phenomenon.
Second time when I went to San Francisco I had Tony for company. Tony was in US for a couple of months before I reached and was already becoming a part of the culture. Tony took me to Whole Foods Market the first day for lunch and I noticed him greeting back the cashier and then answer that customary question…
For here or to go?
“To go” means they are asking if its a “take away” or “parcel” order. This is again something I had to learn earlier.
Later at Subway I heard Tony asking
Can I have a soda with the sub?
I was like did he start having soda even with his food? The lady there then handed him a glass and I saw him going to the fountain to fill Pepsi. Soda is the generic word for an aerated drink, I realized.
When it was my turn to tell the lady what to add in my sub, I said
Some chillis please
The lady looked at me puzzled. Tony came to my rescue and told her to add jalapeños. Chilli means beef in America, I was told.
San Francisco is a great place to have Indian food. Tony, Nikunj and I ate from Pakwan almost every night. Pakwan was better than all the Indian/Pakistani restaurants we tried eating in the Tenderloin area. We had authentic South Indian food in a Firangi fine dining setup from Dosa at Fillmore, complete with Kingfisher Beer. We even taught a cute firang waitress what a thali meal means. I also liked Deli Board a lot for their unique and delicious sandwiches. One Friday Rajesh took all of us to Bourbon & Branch, a Speakeasy, which was also an experience in itself. The girl at Bourbon & Branch actually greeted us by asking for our ID cards
Even though we used Square to pay in many of the cabs and Food Trucks in San Francisco, I wanted to have the original Square Wallet experience at Sight Glass Coffee. And I got the chance a day before I left.
That night we were staying in a Hotel very close to Sight Glass Coffee so that morning I dragged Tony to come with me. I made sure I opened the tab on the Square Wallet app before I went in. When I reached the counter the girl there greeted me; but a little different this time
Hi Umesh, How are you doing Today?
Tony was shocked to hear that. I greeted her back and ordered some random coffee and something to eat. We hated the food but enjoying the food was not the objective anyway. On the way back I went to the counter and told her
Put it on Umesh
and we walked away. Tony was puzzled and asked what’s happening. I explained to him how it all worked but I dont think he shared the same excitement as mine at that point. Nevertheless it was my second hipster moment in the USA.
End. The title is in Malayalam. It loosely translates to “Don’t underestimate America.”