“Can I also have a can of orange soda?” Armei says to the kid behind the counter, who looks like he’s hardly out of high school. Armei can’t even remember the days when she’s out of high school. That’s so long ago and she’s growing old.
“You mean the ‘San Pellegrino’.” The kid says with a thinly veiled amusement. He actually pronounces “Pellegrino” with a Latin flair and emphasis on certain syllables. He must have learned it from his Italian grandpa at home. What a show off. Armei thought. And he stares at Armei as if he’s waiting for her praise. She knows she should praise him, just to be social, but at the moment she doesn’t feel like it. Here she struggles to speak her accented English while he speaks his perfect American English and his perfect Italian without showing any effort–can life be more unfair?
This is in Panera Bread, the chain coffee shop with a big sitting area in Menlo Park Mall, New Jersey. Armei doesn’t want to come, but Lulu drags her over.
When they sit down and Armei relates her orange Pellegrino story, Lulu laughs and says, “we do need to learn to pronounce those Italian names. Let’s go to Olive Garden or Maggiano’s to bother those waiters with pronunciations.”
“Lulu, give me a break. English is enough of a headache for me. Now you want to learn Italian? Haven’t immigrants suffered enough?” Armei whines.
“Look, we can study the menu online so that we can ask educated questions when we arrive.” Lulu scrolls her phone to show the menu. “I wonder what Fritté is? Rigatoni looks like pasta. Or we can try parmigiana. What is Mozzarella? I heard of this word before somewhere.”
“Lulu, please don’t torture me. My head starts to spin right now.” Armei says.
“Armei, promise me when we go there this time, you will not bring your chopsticks, like what you did two years ago. It is so embarrassing.” Lulu pats on Armei’s hand to warn her.
“How can I eat noodles without chopsticks?” Armei asks.
“Goodness. That’s not noodle. That’s pasta.” Lulu says.