Speaking ‘Jamaican’?… Seriously?

Working at the library, a portion of my shift consists of what is called “collection maintenance.” This portion of my shift requires me to reshelf books or make sure that they are all numerically and alphabetically ordered. One day, a new security guard covering the shift of the ‘regular guy’—bored out of his mind—decides to make conversation with me during ‘collection maintenance.’ Usually, it is difficult for people to get me to quiet down but during collection maintenance I am all about productivity.

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“If I do not complete two carts in two hours I will have failed myself,” I kept thinking.

All of a sudden, Mr. TrynaKillTime shows up and in all honesty, he seemed pretty decent and friendly. I just knew I could get in trouble for wasting time talking instead of focusing on stacking books so I confront him straightforwardly about it in the BF721 section. He understands and gets back to work.

Half an hour later, when I arrive in the HV875 section, he somehow “coincidentally” manages to slip in between the shelves again nearby where I stand.

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“Great,” I sigh.

“So where are you from?” he said.

“Morocco,” I responded.

“Oh? Where’s that”

“North Africa, under Spain,” I answered.

“Hmm… Interesting,” he begins. “So, you said you’re from Africa, right?”

“Uhuh”

“Well, do you speak, uh, do they speak Jamaican there?”

Pfffff?!

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That question took me largely by surprise.

“You’re joking, right?” I said.

“Is this guy for real?”

“Was I close?” he asked. Clearly, the expression on my face did not give away how far that assumption was.

“You don’t even have the right country, yet alone the same continent,” I assured him.

world_map

A sketch of the approximate geographic difference between Jamaica and Morocco.

“What, really? That bad?” he tried smooth talking.

“Not only that, Jamaicans speak: English,” I added. “What level of education is required for you to be a security officer in a University library?”

“Yeah, I just needed to complete high school.”

“They let you graduate without taking Geography?” I asked.

“Well yes, but I don’t remember much from high school to be honest,” he justified.

“Evidently,” I whispered.

“What was that?”

“Oh, nothing,” I teased.

Avoiding THE AWKWARD:

  • EDUCATE YOURSELF!
  • Don’t believe what the media wants you to believe about Africa (i.e. Africa is NOT what you see on Mean Girls and “African/Jamaican” is not a language)
  • If you’re not sure, DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS!
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Riding in Buses with Boys

I’m sitting in the mid-section of bus 110 N, and reading D.K. Thomas’ The White Hotel,

download

and counting the pages left. I can’t believe I have an English essay on this book. It’s already starting to make me feel nauseous. I unzip part of my winter coat. I have no idea why they always have to overheat this section of the bus. I raise my eyes to the neon time indicator above the bus driver seat.

10.27

It’s 10:27 pm.

“I should really start coming home earlier,” I think. My head starts to spin. To think that I thought I got over my motion sickness. I try finding somewhere to lean my head. This seat just isn’t working for me, so I make my way to the back of the bus. Hopefully, it’ll be easier to get some rest there.

“Hi Fatima!” I hear from behind me. Turning to my left, I take notice of a boy I see around campus relentlessly. The amount of times I see him is stunning considering we have no classes together.

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“Hi Mehdi,” I reply. His copper hands indicate he wants me to sit next to him, his dark brown eyes suggest he wants to make conversation. I, on the other hand, have no will to make small chat but to not be rude, I take a seat, leaving a big gap between us. “So what are you doing here?”
“I just finished studying for a maths exam, so I’m heading home right now, and you?”

“I can’t concentrate at home so I decided to finish some work in a CCT computer lab.” I respond.

“Really? Neither can I, that’s funny.”

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The Cineplex Cinema Theater ahead indicates we’re arriving soon. He mentions something about not having been grocery shopping in a while but I’m too distracted to pay attention. I notice his really long nails, he should cut them soon.

I touch the exit door handle with my sleeves and get off the bus.

“Fatima? Are you listening?”
“Huh? Yeah, yeah, I am,” I lie. “Alright I’ll see you around, bye!” As I walk towards my next bus, I notice he’s walking in the same direction. “Don’t you usually take bus 34, or something?” I ask Mehdi, as he enters the second bus with me.

“I need to visit someone before going home,” he assures me, brushing his curly black hair. I wonder where he’d be going at this time of night.

***

I can feel his presence behind me as I get off bus 3 E.

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“Do you want me to walk you home?” he asks.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I impatiently mumble.

“It can wait. Now come, I’ll walk you home”

“Ok, but wait, didn’t you say you needed to go grocery shopping, let’s go there first”

“Oh yeah, you were listening after all,” he says.

My sigh makes way for the fog fume of breath as I walk towards the closest convenience store. I saved myself some time. When he’s not watching, I check my phone for bus times going back to Square One. The next bus comes in 17 minutes, how wonderful.

***

We’re walking out of Becker’s Convenience Store, and I pace towards the nearest bus stop.

“Wait, I was supposed to walk you home.” He insists.

“No, don’t worry about. It’s getting late, you should really go home and get some rest”

Are you sure? He keeps asking persistently.

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“Yes, I am. I don’t want you walking me home, I’m sorry. Can you please just go?” I beg him. His hurt face glows beneath the bus shelter light and I start to feel the guilt.

“This is not how I wanted this to end,” he says.

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Avoiding THE AWKWARD:

  • Pretend you don’t know people who approach you on the bus
  • If someone follows you around a lot, it’s a good sign you have a stalker (stay away!)

Stranger Danger

After spending a summer with my family and relatives back in Morocco, the time came to kiss home goodbye and return to Canada to continue my studies. It was mid-August and my sister, Zina, and I were looking for gate 103 in L’aéroport Mohammed V since our flight tickets indicated that our correspondence flight to France’s departure would be there.

When we arrived, we were right on time so Zina said she would go to the prayer room for a little bit and be back soon. I stood my ground, knowing that that would be the safest thing to do if we needed to find each other when she would return. However, I noticed that there was a great deal of commotion happening at our gate. There was a middle aged seemingly Moroccan man idly watching over everything so I decided to ask him what was going on.

“I don’t know, people get really heated around airplanes I guess,” he says in Darija, Moroccan dialectic Arabic. “Everyone is angry because the flight was supposed to leave ages ago.”

“What? That’s weird, I believe that we are on t—,” I start before he cuts me off.

“So, where are you headed?” he asks.

“Oh, to Canada.”

Canada

“Canada is a very beautiful country, my sister, Hind, lives in Montreal,” he states.

“Ah, Montreal? Morocco Part II, right?”

“Yeah, I wish I could live there,” he says.

“Where are you from?” I ask, assuming he lives in France.

“I’m Bolognese,” he answers. “How old are you?”

“Umm,” I hesitate before letting the following jump off my lips: “I’m twenty.”

“How about your sister?”

“She’s a year younger. How old are you?”

shutup

Oups.

“42.”

“Oh, just like my father.” I boldly comment.

“You know, you and your sister seem like such good girls. I don’t see such good women these days.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, my wife was very horrible with me and we just got a divorce recently,” he begins.

“I’m very sorry to hear that”

“That’s ok. Now, I am looking for another women to make me happy,” he says, giving me a very strange look.

midlifecrisis

    This is definitely getting very strange.

“I hope you find the perfect woman to make you happy, uncle,” I reply, proud of myself.

All of a sudden, I hear the furious passengers shout at the flight attendants. “We’re going to BOMB this place if you do not let us in!?” Their hands moving

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“We are sorry for the inconveniences, let us board the children first and we will be with you all in a moment,” the air hostess responds.

    What? Are these people serious? We are in an airport for crying out loud! How is everyone so composed after someone just blatantly shouted the word “bomb” here? I really hope I don’t have to board the plane with these crazy people. O_O

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The people continued shouting, moving their arms around as they spoke.

Suddenly, everything became clear. The hand movements, the Bolognese man, the seemingly Mafia—ish figures. This wasn’t the flight to France, this was the flight to Bologna, Italy!

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“Oh my god! Where is this plane going?” I ask, dreading the anticipated response.

“To Italy,” he said. “Aren’t you going there too?”

“Oh, no!”

“Wai—,” he begins before I cut him off to check the flight schedules. The flight to Paris seems to have been moved to gate 110 at the other end of the airport. I collect my breath and start running in that direction.

    Oups. I forgot about my sister.

I run back to gate 103 and fortunately Zina felt that something was off too and she sprinted back.

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We rush towards gate 110 only to find that there are no passengers waiting there and the plane has already departed.

I look at Zina in despair and we can’t help but feel horrible for missing our only flight back to Canada. I can’t believe I wasted so much time with that random stranger.

“Baba is going to kill us,” Zina says.

“I know.”

Unexpectedly, an announcement is made by a female flight attendant over the intercom.

    “Could all passengers boarding flight JLM8FI to airport Charles de Gaulles, in France please make their way to gate 101. We apologize for the delay and miscommunication. Once again, could all passengers boarding flight JLM8FI to airport Charles de Gaulles, in France please make their way to gate 101.”

I cannot even begin to descirbe the sigh of relief Zina and I felt after that announcement. We gathered our belongings and paced our way to gate 101. Ironically, we breathlessly passed by gate 103 only to find that the Bolognese man and the mafia crew were still awaiting to be seated.

    Avoiding THE AWKWARD:

  • NEVER speak with seemingly creepy strangers, EVER!
  • Remember that if an older man is smiling at you too much, it’s not because you’re funny (although, you may very well be)
  • Don’t give away your personal information to strangers (sounds obvious, right?)
  • Finally, Make sure you’re at the RIGHT gate when at the airport

Caught in the Act

Reflecting on other experiences where I have been completely baffled by the surprise presence of someone who really shouldn’t be present, I remember once deciding to ditch a class with a friend. Now, before you judge me, I must add that this class dragged on for three hours and was too tiresome considering I had so many assignments to complete. I was sure it would be impossible to have enough time to finish them. The Professor was lovable and the course was as-a-matter-of-fact, really interesting but I was drowning in so much schoolwork and needed to use the spare time missing this class would offer me as a lifejacket to pull me out of the storm.

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My friend and I looked at each other before entering the class and came up with a mutual consensus of what our “exit strategy” would consist of.  We cleverly decided to take the elevator down instead of the stairs, thinking it would spare us from bumping into our professor.

We laugh hysterically together, thinking we’re the wisest ones in the class when suddenly…

Ding. Ding.

The elevator sound indicates we’ve arrived downstairs and right when the doors open, what d’you know, the usually very fit professor decides to take the elevator this week. Sigh.

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“Well, hi there! Where are you two off to?” Professor Johnson asks.

“Hiiiii Professor” I say slowly, feigning joy. “Oh, we were just going to get a drink before your class.”

“Oh, that’s great, well see you in class then,” she responds.

“We were so close, why’d she have to take the elevator?”

“Darnit!” my friend says. “I guess now we must go to class.” And we do.

***

As if this little failure wasn’t enough, there is more.

That same semester, only a couple of days later, I had to miss a tutorial because of an appointment. Tired that day, my friend must of asked me whether they’d like it if they signed my name on the attendance sheet for me and since my attention was elsewhere, I must have replied “sure, sure.”

Little did I know what my friend had done until one day, I awoke to an embarrassing email written by my teaching assistant:

I’ll apologize if I’m wrong, but I’m quite certain that you did NOT
attend today’s tutorial. Yet, someone (I’m assuming your friend) signed you
in. This is not acceptable behaviour. Only students who attend tutorial
should get credit for attending. I trust that
this will not happen again.

Being the loud and talkative person that I am, my friend should have known that the TA would notice my absence. But still, I did not want to pinpoint the incident on my friend since they had good intentions.

My response to my TA was:

I was deeply embarrassed after reading your e-mail. You are correct in assuming that I did not attend class. I should have known better and I admit that what I did was completely wrong. It was unfair not only to you, but to the rest of the class. I am ready to accept any punishment for behaving the way I did and I promise this will never happen again.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.

To which they replied:

No punishment is in order. I’m probably more disappointed than anything – as not only did I not expect this type of behaviour from you, but that you would think that I would not be smart or cognizant enough to know what is happening in my classroom. At any rate, what’s done is done and I trust that there will be no recurrence with this type of thing. In other words, I accept your apology.

This was so embarrassing! Never letting this happen again.

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Avoiding THE AWKWARD:

  • Always be cognescent when you sign your accord to anyone (i.e. read the fine print)
  • Don’t pull stunts like these
  • Avoid the awkwardness, just go to class

Talking Out Loud

The past occurrence I delved into last week reminded me of a similarly cringe worthy moment.

Two summers ago, I took a Design Thinking course at the Trafalgar campus of Sheridan College. It was the first time I took summer school and I decided to take Introduction to Python, a computer science course offered at the St. George campus of UofT. This made it exhausting to stay focused in class.

One day in Design Thinking, we had a guest lecturer do what guest lecturers do, talk and talk and talk. His content was so dry compared to the usual material so I found it hard to concentrate. I decided to take a break, lean behind the Apple computer screen I installed myself in at the beginning of class, and take a well-deserved power nap.

Everything was fine, I rested my eyes a bit before falling into deep sleep. My classmate, Raya’s, Facebook conversation was visible to me with every dozed blink I took.

zzzzZZZZZZZZzZZZzZZZZZzZZZZZZzzzzZZZZZZZ

 sleep

Finally, I awoke to my professor’s announcement: yes, intermission time!

I quickly walked towards the washroom to splash cold water onto my face, in hopes that it would keep me livelier during the second part of lecture. I notice Raya applying eyeliner next to me.

“Trying to stay awake?”

“Yes, I’m so exhausted, and the lecturer is soooooo boring,” I said.

“I agree” she added. “I was on Facebook with my boyfriend who’s away in Pakistan this summer the whole time. I really miss him, it’s so hard being away from him for so long.”

“Yeah, I understand—not that I have a boyfriend—but being away from loved ones is hard” I assure her.

“So, I think it’s about time we go back to class, right?”

“Yeah I think…” I start.

Whoooooosh.

Raya and my expression are priceless as we see our professor walk out of the restroom stall.

sigh

“Hello ladies,” Professor said with a shrewd grin.

“Hi,” we said in harmony.

As our professor walked out of the washroom and into the classroom, her heels clicked, and clacked, and quickly crushed the compusure we once clinged onto.

heels

I thought, “I should drop the course, change my name, and move back to Africa.” Fortunately, however, I kept on with the course and was surprised to find that I had completed it with the highest grade I had gotten so far at UTM.

Overall, any moment of failure can end in a positive light.

Cheesy? I know.

Avoid THE AWKWARD:

  • ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE COAST IS CLEAR!!
    • Make sure that no one around you is there to listen to anything you say that you might regret. Need I say more?

Slip of the Tongue Moment

Last Saturday during one of my regular shifts working in the UTM library, my usual supervisor walked out during the last hour of my shift. A relatively new supervisor walked in to take her place, and when I say “relatively,” I mean it. This is technically my second year working at the library—meaning I’m supposed to know all the names—so all the new student assistants working with me often come to me for advice. Hence the following:

“Hey, Fatima, do you know the name of the supervisor with the short hair that just walked in?” Katie said.

“Umm… I think her name is either Lisa or Lotta. I’m not sure because I generally get their names mixed up.” Suddenly, I notice that Frederick, a student assistant going on his third year working here, is walking in to take over as my shift is ending soon. “Frederick!” I shout. “Enlighten us, is the supervisor with the short bleach blond hair named Lisa or Lotta?”

“Lisa,” Frederick whispers.

“What? Can you repeat that? Why are you whispering?”

“Lisssssssaa,” he whispers again.

I notice after a while that all the new student assistants are given me the shut the hell up look. Oh, I know what’s coming now… “Oh, she’s right in back of me, isn’t she?” I think.

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Me and my big mouth.

Avoiding THE AWKWARD:

  • THINK TWICE BEFORE OPENING YOUR MOUTH!
  • Don’t allow for people to expect so much of you (i.e. tell them you’re horrible with names so they are not surprised by the aforementioned situation)
  • Don’t be as senseless of your surroundings as I am
  • Basically: don’t be an awkward blogger