Write by Fire
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Write by Fire

Be better

This is America, Speak F**king English, Am I Right?

So, what happens when you go to a different country?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

So, we have been in Cozumel Mexico for just under a month. We are staying at a cute little boutique hotel in town and have small two-bedroom unit with a kitchenette. Not fancy at all, but perfect for our three-month stay.

The place where we are staying has 12 rooms, only ours has the kitchenette and two bedrooms. The rest are pretty much like an average hotel room. As such, most of the residents stay only a few nights. However, there is one other long-term stayee; a couple from Canada.

The entire complex circles a nice little pool. In fact, if you want the link to the place where we are staying: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/32697919 (Not an affiliate link, or even a pitch. Just a place we would stay at again).

The upside is that you get to see your neighbors pretty frequently as the rest of the rooms only have one way in and out, through the courtyard with the pool. You can probably extrapolate how that can simultaneously be a bad side as well.

More on that in a bit.

So, flash back about a month to New Years. We stayed at a casino in Shreveport, LA (well, technically in Bossier City, but pretty much all the same). On New Year’s Eve we were at the Three-card Poker table having a nice time giving a lot of our money to the casino.

Sitting next to us was a gentleman that was pretty intoxicated. I am stating fact, not judging as we were trying our best to catch up to him.

There were a few open seats at the table and a group of gentlemen came up and two sat down while the others stood around behind them and watched. A normal enough occurrence. They were conversing among themselves but chose to speak a language other than English. I don’t think it really matters at all what it was.

However, the gentleman next to me chose to lean over and then say over-loudly, “It’s fucking America, speak English; am I right?”

Nope. Not right, but I was caught a little off guard. I decided to use my go-to approach of smoothing things over and not causing a scene by saying, “We all speak different languages”.

I could tell that my wife was just about ready to climb over me and throat punch him though. Fortunately, the dealer stepped in and said something to the effect of, “we don’t talk like that here”. So, that night, Lena didn’t get kicked out of the casino. ;-)

The gentleman then apologized many times. Over and over as someone that has had a bit too much alcohol might do. The dealer’s response and bless her because it has stayed with me ever since, was: “Don’t be sorry. Be better.”

Cut back to present time.

Photo by fer gomez on Unsplash

Now, I have heard the term, “Ugly Americans” plenty of times, but never had it used for our Canadian neighbors.

Things change.

Our other long-term residents with us here, the Canadian couple, are refining my views.

Generally, they are nice enough. A bit chatty, there is no such thing as quiet time at the pool. However, given that, harmless enough. I guess a by-product of talking a lot is that sometimes bigoted things come out of your mouth? Or not, maybe? Nevertheless, on more than one occasion our neighbor has mimicked the locals’ speed of talking by saying a string of rapid, meaningless syllables, as if to mock the residents here.

Not even a little bit okay.

From my perspective, that is on me. And while I get that when folks speak Spanish at a rapid pace I am mostly lost, that’s my issue. Not ever theirs!

I mean, you can’t have it both ways.

I guess the punchline of this story is that there are bigots and idiots everywhere. Mexico, Louisiana, Canada you name it. Hard to get away from them.

We can’t spend our lives being the moral police of the planet. At least I have no desire to do so, I have other things I want out of my existence. However, we can be the people we want others to be.

Lena and I are both on a 22-day streak of learning Spanish on Duo Lingo. Every time I feel like I am kicking ass at Spanish, all we have to do is go to the grocery store and attempt the simplest conversation to get put back in our place.

But we are trying. Every day!

I mean, it’s Mexico, speak f-ing Spanish, am I right?

Don’t be sorry. Be better.

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Timothy Key spent over 26 years in the fire service as a firefighter/paramedic and various fire chief management roles. He firmly believes that bad managers destroy more than companies, and good managers create a passion that is contagious. Compassion, grace and gratitude drive the world; or at least they should. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

If you like this, you might like some of my other writing:



Re-inventing the way we see ourselves in a changing world. Articles on self, organizational leadership, finance, innovation and some travel.

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Timothy Key

Retired from fire service after 26 years. Writer and world traveler. I believe compassion, grace and gratitude are contagious and should be spread liberally.