Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Foreign Language (12/09/10)
TITLE: The Visitor
By Joni LeRette-Flores
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"Oh, it's going to be one of those days. . . again. Don't you people have anything better to do?" Hoping her lips weren't moving in cadence to her inner voice, she logged into the three computer systems required to progress each customer from Point A to Point B, keeping her eyes on the keyboard and the ever-ticking clock at the bottom right-hand of the screen, avoiding eye contact with the zealous, gathered crowd.
"God, help me through this day. Thank You, that You are my shield, my ever-present help in time of trouble. Help me to be and receive your blessing this day."
Painting a fašade smile, at precisely 8:30 a.m., she flipped the television on and walked to the door, swiveling the lock to remove the protective shield separating her from drivers and wannabes awaiting service.
"Yeah. Sure took you long enough. Can't you go any faster?"
"Aren't the elderly supposed to be nice? Pleasant?" Bristled thoughts swarmed at greeting the wrinkled woman first in line, but Sarah kept her smile in place. I'll be right with you.
"Well, it's about time. I've been here since 7:30."
"How may I help you?"
"How may I help you, Ma'am?"
"Well, what do you think? I'm here to renew my license."
"You're in the right place. May I see the license you have now?"
"Oh, for cry'n out loud. I already put it away. I have to dig it out of my billfold. You people. You just don't make things easy, do you?"
"I wonder what made her so bitter, Lord. Help me to be patient." The weathered patron slid her expired driving pass on the counter.
"Very good, Ms. Blast. Here you go. If you'll fill out this form while you wait and take it to the counter when Number 400 is called, you'll be first up."
"What do you mean, wait? I have to wait again. You people. You people." Ms. Blast's grumbled snatch of the clipboard let loose the attached pencil, which dropped hastily to the floor.
So focused on serving Mrs. Blast, Sarah hadn't noticed the woman standing behind her. Quiet, unassuming, a purple sarong framing an olive-complexion, the young miss bent to retrieve the departed lead. Sparkling, ebony eyes followed an outstretched hand yielding Mrs. Blast's writing utensil. For you.
"Oh, for land's sakes, what are you doing here? I suppose you're getting a license. I'm an American. I deserve one. Give me that pencil!"
Bending her head as though in shame, it was clear she did not understand Mrs. Blast's diatribe, but absorbed her tone.
"That was nice of you. How may I help you?" Sarah aimed to reconcile the act of kindness with acknowledgement, but the patron could not understand the gesture.
"I come, for license, please."
"Do you have a license from another state?"
The dark-eyed woman stared blankly at Sarah. Silent.
"You want to take a computer test?"
"I would like license, please."
"Oh, for cry'n out loud another foreigner. I've been waiting here since a quarter of eight. Now I have to wait another hour for someone to translate for this woman. Boy, if I went to her country, they sure as heck wouldn't have someone standing by to interpret what I said. Only in American. I deserve to get my license first." Words uttered by the six foot, four inch, 250 pound, dressed in coveralls man with a beard were laced with anger.
"May I see your documentation?"
A captive victim surrounded by a war of words, the woman feverishly rustled through a cluster of papers clutched, like life bread, in her left hand and placed the stack on the white-washed counter in front of Sarah: I-551, Social Security card, apartment lease agreement, driver's license issued from California.
"Looks like you have everything you need here. Very good. Your number is 401. You fill this paper out and take it to the counter where your number pops up, okay?" Sarah pointed to the red neon digits displayed above Stations A, B, C and D. The woman nodded and then, most unusual for a day in the DMV, she looked up at Sarah and smiled, eyes moist.
"Thank you." Reaching for the clipboard, a petite hand patted Sarah's ever so slightly. "Thank you," she said once again, softly, almost inaudibly.
Everyone can speak kindness; it need not be a foreign language.
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