From Meredith Harper, Kitchenette Jezebel
When I was in my very early 20’s, I went through a giant breakup—first live-in boyfriend, was convinced we’d be together forever, classic first real heartbreak. So I very abruptly moved to New Zealand, because I’m a measured person who handles life’s slings and arrows with a cool head.
I was mostly there as a tourist, but I was broke of course, so I would spend a month or so hiking and doing outdoorsy stuff, then a month or two working until I could afford to keep traveling. During the work periods I would be taking on up to three jobs at a time so that I could get as much income in as short a time possible (my visa was only good for one year). During one of these stints, one of my three jobs was as a dishwasher at a restaurant.
There were a lot of weird things about this job. A lot of the other staff were odd ducks.
There was one line cook who would sing (shout) metal music out loud—not music that was playing, just whatever was in his head—for almost his entire shift. There was a girl who I’m pretty sure never spoke to me. Add on top of this that I was still at that time of my life very shy, and the sink was positioned directly next to the door to the dining room (it’s an informal brewpub type place, so the door was always propped open), and I was a 22 year old girl, and super fit from the outdoorsy stuff, and I was always soaked from the industrial sink, and just lit up in the doorway of a place where lots of men were getting drunk...
I was way too meek to figure out how to handle hearing all the sexual stuff that was being directed at me. So I just ignored it and hated my life and counted down til quitting day.
But the number one worst thing was the manager, who would say these really creepy things to me. Like “Wow, you’re so wet” or “that shirt looks really hot on you” or random comments about my looks/body. I mean, if someone said that shit to me now, I’d crack down right away.
At the time I was super young and just thinking, “Well, I mean MAAAAYBE he thinks that’s appropriate?”
Because the tone he used was never straight-up lecherous, it was always kind of friendly. But he would also reprimand other employees while standing right behind my work station, saying really private things about their work history, which I also found bizarre.
So fast forward to my very last day at work. I have really never spoken to this guy, because my entire policy has been Ignore The Creep, and he never actually said anything to me that wasn’t a weird sexual one-liner. He comes over and he’s talking to me about my travels as I’m washing dishes.
We talk for about 10 minutes and then he says: “Wow, your English is really good, I didn’t realize you spoke this well.”
I genuinely didn’t understand what he meant, maybe my vocabulary? So I said uncertainly, “Well, I studied English Literature in college, I guess maybe that’s it?”
He pauses for a long time, starts to go really pale and he says, “Where are you from?”
“The northeast of the US.”
And then he basically goes completely white and kind of stammers out, “I—someone—I thought you were from Denmark?!”
And then I realize that the stupid jerk had thought the whole time that I didn’t speak English. He thought if he said creepy shit with a friendly voice that I wouldn’t know what he was saying.
It actually made the two months of weird inappropriate comments worth it to me, to watch his face as he realized that I had heard every single word he said. He awkwardly ended the conversation as fast as he could and disappeared for the rest of the night.