Sunday, October 23, 2005

What’s sign language for “dollop”?

I have an approachable face. Not in a “Hey, baby, what’s shakin’?” sort of way but in a “Do you know where the soup is?” sort of way. When I was single young men tried to corner me a few times but lechery was not their motivation. One asked me how to wash tennis shoes and the other, after pulling me aside, asked in sultry tones how to make a pie crust. (I told him to go to the frozen foods section of the grocery store and buy one.)

Being approachable is helpful to me at work, and it sometimes puts me in challenging situations. One evening this week I stopped at a CVS on the way home to see if they had contact paper (don’t ask). An older woman in ethnic dress rushed up to me and waggled a traveler sized bottle of Pert Shampoo Plus Conditioner in my direction. “Yah!” she said. I stood there trying to figure out what she wanted. She repeated the gesture and the word. I was still blank. She rubbed her hair with her fingers.

“Yes,” I said. “shampoo. Shampoo PLUS conditioner” and also rubbed my hair with my fingers. She nodded, happy with this. Then she held up one finger. Again, I was confused. She held up one finger again and then rubbed her hair. Aha! How many shampoos in the bottle. I flashed all my fingers at her twice.

“Many.” I said, and flashed my fingers at her again. Now she looked confused. I held out one hand and tapped a finger of the other hand in the center of my outstretched palm. Then I held a finger and thumb close together. Then I tapped my finger in my palm again. How do you sign the concept of a dollop to someone who does not speak your language? We gestured back and forth, the same gestures, a few times. I was exaggerating the number of shampoos but I wanted to express the general idea. She seemed satisfied and headed for the checkout counter.

When I left two women were trying to help the checkout clerk tell her it cost $1.06.

[update: Dang it! Does you suppose she was asking if it cost $1.00? I wish people came with instructions.]


ACM said...

I wish people came with instructions.

in this and so many other things...

AboveAvgJane said...

I think we should institute a "post-it on the forehead" system myself, updated for each situation and encounter).

Lily said...

Maybe someday we'll be able to have a satellite fed ticker scrolling across our heads... temperature... grocery list... mood... translator

AboveAvgJane said...

Greenlily, I think th technology already exists, RFID or something like that, where people can have a barcode attached to them and other people can have barcode readers and scan you as they go by. I've heard it being adapted for singles meet-ups and such but it is probably still a few years away.