, 30 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
"Hi, my name is Joseph. You can call me Joe."

"Nice to meet you, Joe."

"Hi, I'm Frank."

"Nice to meet you, Joe."

"...but I'm Frank."

"WHAT? I THOUGHT THE RULE WAS WE CALL PEOPLE JOE, I JUST LEARNED IT, NOW IT'S CHANGED, THIS IS TOO COMPLICATED, I'M OUT!"
If you're in a class or a department or workplace with twenty different people who all have their own names and maybe job titles, you don't have to memorize "rules" and then compare them to each other to make sure they're all consistent with one another, right?
Not everything's rules.

As a rule, most things aren't.
I've told this story on here before, but I used to have a data entry job where we were typing info from phonebooks into a database for direct marketing (yeah, sorry, no ethical et cetera). It's an increasingly automated field, so mostly we were doing the lines the OCR kicked out.
We went all around the country by phone book over the course of a year, and while I worked there I would have the weirdest deja vu when I traveled, finding myself puzzled about how I recognized the street names or even the address of a place (my department only did businesses).
Anyway, once a year, our trip around the country would take us to the territory of Puerto Rico, and my coworkers hated that. They lodged complaints, they grumbled, they tried to talk the management out of it, they insisted that we were not qualified, as a department for it.
And I joined the team only a few months before this, so I was only there for a few months before they started warning me it was going to be terrible. I asked what was so bad. I mean, I was vaguely aware they had some different standards for writing addresses.
And they told me:

"It's all in Spanish."

And I said... and?

"Oh. Do you speak Spanish?"

I do not speak Spanish. But if you put Spanish in front of me and tell me to type it, I can copy it.
My coworkers did not seem to understand or believe this. When we got the Puerto Rico phone book pages, I watched in amazement as, for every business and address they entered, they stopped to look up every word in a Spanish-English dictionary.

Understand, we weren't translating.
What they typed in to the database was what was on screen, not what was in the dictionary. But they had a sense that since it was Foreign, and thus Incomprehensible, they couldn't just... look at it and type it out.
And, like, we went through fifty states that had street names in every language that has touched the shores of North America, and it's not like they knew what all of those street names *meant*. Or all the business names. Or the city names.
Yes, exactly so.

And if I leaned over to my neighbor and asked them if they could just look at the letters a-g-u-a and type that into the field, they would tell me, "but that's Spanish, I don't know Spanish."

I.... always outperformed my teammates. Always. On my worst day.

When we did the Puerto Rico books, I wound up doing most of them. And we got through them in a week when there had been a month set aside, based on prior experience.
My teammates thought I was giving up in frustration and just typing nonsense, because I had told them I don't speak Spanish. And then when the QA came back and mine were fine, they decided I did speak Spanish and was modest or lying.
When I tried to explain that I was just typing what I saw on the screen and it didn't matter what it *meant*, the response was along the lines of, "So you just type any nonsense and hope for the best?"
Eventually I just gave up and told them that I don't speak Spanish but I can read it. And sometimes they'd ask me what a word meant, if the dictionary (there was one copy - no one ever got their own) was busy. And I'd tell them. Because, I mean, I don't speak Spanish but
there are a lot of roots in common with other languages, plus loan words in both directions, plus you see words over and over again and you can't help pick them up. Well, I couldn't. They could.
I will admit that there may be a handful of white people in the Omaha metropolitan region who think a "ferreteria" is a pet store specializing in mustelids but, come on. I'm only human.
Anyway.

This phenomenon... it's broader than my former coworkers. Ever witness somebody's customer service meltdown where they insist someone else isn't speaking English, when they're speaking English with an accent?
Or somebody who completely shuts down and starts screaming when a message repeats the same message in two languages, insisting that they can't understand it?
Or people who just absolutely refuse to acknowledge a word they're repeatedly exposed to, that's obvious by context, because it's ~*foreign*~?
For all my brand new followers who haven't seen me do this before - no, I didn't forget what thread I was posting in when I started this story.

I think the same phenomenon, broadly, is responsible for a lot of the outraged confusion over "rules" for interacting with queer people
If you meet twenty people in a day... okay, you're probably not going to remember all their names unless that's your wheelhouse. But if you're introduced to them and you say hello, you don't need to be told individually to use the name given in the introduction.
But there are people walking around who, if introduced to someone they're told is trans or genderqueer, or who seems to their eyes to be visibly non-conforming, you can say, "Hi, I'm Shauna. Nice to meet you." and they'll say, "I don't know what to call you. Not up on the rules."
And the people who do this will usually be apologetic, but also flustered, combative, defensive, and agitated. Because they're sure they're going to break a rule they didn't know existed, and get punished for it.
And then one step down from the people who just shut down and apologize angrily for not being able to call you by the name you just gave them because they don't know how it works and "mustn't give offense", you get the people who insist trans pronouns are unworkable.
"How are we supposed to keep track of pronouns?" I mean, you do it all the time anyway. But if, to you, queer = other = foreign = BRAIN SHUT DOWN, then it's impossible. Impossible as typing the letters CALLE DEL RIO if you don't speak Spanish.
And you know, I really do sympathize with the whole having a little freak out when faced with something unfamiliar, something that you don't know how it works.

Buuut when it's *people*, you've got an advantage. They can tell you. You can listen.
And honestly with both of these examples, it's not that things are actually so different. It's that the people having the reaction have coded them so strongly as Other that they refuse to recognize they know exactly what to do. Refuse to consider the normal rules apply.
And honestly, having articulated that last tweet.... I think that's the key. I think the magnitude of the reaction comes from basically a processing error, where the solution is obvious (do what you'd normally do!) but must be rejected, because this *can't be* normal!
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