Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Mom's Inventive "Secret"

For 22 years, my mom worked as an Eligibility Worker for Medi-Cal (California's version of Medicaid). She'd often come home laughing uncontrollably, signaling that she had a funny story to tell at the dinner table. Although I loved all her Medi-Cal stories, one story towers above them all for both its splendid humor and the way it demonstrates Mom's brilliance in helping someone save face.

One day, Mom went out to the waiting room to summon her client. The woman politely answered, "I'm waiting for Mrs. Simmons, thank you."

With equal politeness, Mom responded, "I'm Mrs. Simmons. Will you please come with me?"

"Oh no," the client objected, "the Mrs. Simmons I'm scheduled to see is the black lady!"

Mom gave her a puzzled look, but kept her cool, professional air. She sweetly explained, "I'm the only Mrs. Simmons here."

The client struggled to conceal her impatience as she firmly responded, "I beg your pardon, but I've been speaking on the phone  with the other Mrs. Simmons for the last two weeks. I can tell by her voice that she's black.

At that remark, my mom realized that her slight Southern accent often seemed more prominent when she spoke on the phone, and her client had apparently associated Southern accents with black people. Aware that several other people in the room had observed the exchange between her and the lady, Mom knew she needed a gracious resolution. Accordingly, she walked over to the woman and, as if sharing a confidence, whispered, "I pass for white."

Quite satisfied, and honored to be trusted with Mom's "secret," the client went to the interview room!


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