At the urging of a friend, I post this story. My childhood stories are fairly entertaining, so I've been told. Gird your loins, this is a good one.
As a teenager I had a huge sweet tooth. While this is not news, there was a time when my sweet tooth was a problem. Not cavities or lbs. mind you, but clonked on the head with a shovel and left for dead.
This trip down memory lane is made possible by those gloriously golden pieces of goodness called Coffee Nips. You see, in high school I lived on a steady diet of Coffee Nips, caffeine, and McDonalds. Have you seen these below? They are pretty much coffee-flavored crack.
Nips are the most perfect, mouth-watering, substance on earth. So euphoric in fact, that there was never a time that I wouldn't walk miles to the store solely to replenish my stockpile.
On one occasion, my sister and I needed a fix. Wide-eyed, we drooled with anticipation over our upcoming sugar coma. The store nearby wasn't our usual 7-11 but when you are jonesin' for candy, do you care? I assure you, you do not.
This was a little corner store, with the usual convenience goodies: coffee, gum, beer, soda, and ancient groceries at quadruple the typical costs. The store was clean, well stocked and run by a very kind, yet very animated Asian couple. They spoke broken English but it was enough to communicate with their customers. She usually ran the cash register while he was perpetually in and out of the back room while talking to her intermittently in Japanese.
We searched up and down their little isles for our candy. My sister inquired of the woman, "Do you have any Coffee Nips?"
The woman looked at us blankly. She just stood there and said nothing.
"Coffee Nips?" my sister repeated herself. The gentleman in the back walked out and stood next to his wife. Neither answered and continued to stare at us blankly.
This was the problem:
Definition: Delectable candy often desired by clueless teens.
Definition: Highly derogatory slang term for a person of Japanese descent. It is derived from "Nippon", the Japanese term for Japan. Usage in this context probably peaked around the time of WWII.
Can you see where this is going?
My sister and I glanced at each other and seeing I was the older and wiser, I take over hoping to get through to the shop owner. In all my teenage wisdom, I immediately came under the impression that her lack of response, odd expression, and foreign, I needed to speak LOUDER and SLOOOOWER.
in·san·i·ty - noun
Definition: To do the same action over and over again hoping for a different outcome at each attempt.
"DOOO YOOOU HAVE ANY COOOFFEE NIPS?" I tried asking, enunciating every syllable and speaking louder than my sister's previous inquiry.
By this time her husband's blank look has turned into a full on glare. They start talking quietly to each other in Japanese.
"What is their problem?" I thought to myself.
"No," He declared emphatically as he motioned us away with the flip of his hand.
"Okay. Thanks," was all I could muster, still puzzled by his odd reply. We paid for our sodas in ignorant bliss and made our way out.
If I had been, say 40 years older, I might have understood the cultural faux paus we had committed. The sweet, little Japanese couple thought they heard, "Do you have any coffee, Nips?"
Now older and wiser, I cringe when I buy a box of Coffee Nips. It's a funny, but an uncomfortable reminder that commas do make all the difference.
~Bee has been enlightened and fully embraces cultural diversity.
Listening to: Turning Japanese by The Vapors