Palo Alto – Just days ago, local resident Robby Malon encountered a foreign tourist and, in an attempt to overcome the language barrier between himself and the other man, slowed his speech while simultaneously raising the volume. The individual, who appeared to be lost and seeking directions, smiled but looked confused as Malon’s speech slowed to a remarkable 15 words per minute. Although Malon could easily be heard over the fairly loud street traffic, and in spite of his best efforts to nod vigorously and make repetitive, meaningless hand gestures, Malon was unable to convey the idea Stanford’s campus is that way, a good restaurant is this way, there are lots of good hotels near here, and it is hard to answer a question without knowing what the question is.
The son of a nurse and an accountant, Malon grew up in a comfortably middle class home, and this is not his first encounter with a foreigner. “There were lots of Mexicans in our neighborhood when Robby was little,” commented Malon’s mother, explaining that he should be familiar with the concept of languages other than English and the futility of speaking loudly and slowly to someone who simply does not understand English. It is unclear how, at the age of 31, Mr. Malon has not yet realized that foreigners are neither stupid nor hard of hearing. As of press time, the tourist in question was holding a cellphone uncertainly while Malon helpfully shouted, “DO, YOU, NEED, TO, CALL, A, TAXI, SIR?”