Funny: "Your zip code, please?"
FOB stands for 'Fresh Off the Boat' -- a crude reference to the first migrants to the land of Dreams, the United States of America. In modern times, it gets used to refer to the newest immigrants who are so typically dressed that you can pick then out even if they are mingled in a jam-packed Metallica concert: a "passport" pouch around their waist, a cap, sports shoes with formal clothing and to top it all, a map of the local area in their hands.
I'm not stereotyping them, but it's an evaluation that most will agree with.
So, why the background? I'm referring to a ex-student friend of mine who a couple of years ago was a FOB. He's probably much better right now, but things were not so rosy back then.
-- Flashback: 2 years before now --
It's the time when new Graduate students arrive in Madison. Let's call my friend "MXYZPTLK" (or "R" for brevity). Now R was a proud Indian student from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. He was not used to getting spurned or laughed at -- ever. This was a good change for him. Being a "senior" in Madison, I was entrusted with the task of taking a bunch of the FOB's out for shopping.
For me, R was the most entertaining person of the lot. He used to exude so much of confidence and was always way ahead of others, literally, in the matter of getting to a particular section of the shop. After most of the shopping done for the day, the last stop was at a apparel store to buy winter clothing.
Since this was his first shopping experience in the US, he did seem a bit hesitant and was choosy in his choice of items. Nevertheless, he got a few of them and was ready to stand in the check-out line.
R, with his chest full-o-pride, goes to the checkout counter.
Lady at Counter: "Hello! Are you ready to check-out?"
R: "Yes, I'm ready..."
LAC: "So...Did you find everything you wanted today?"
At this point, I seem to think that R is having trouble either hearing her correctly or with the new accent.
LAC: "Ok, so that will be a total of XX.XX$ for today...Check or Charge?"
At this point R is stumped. He looks at me for moral support and I butt in: "He'll pay by Debit card please..."
LAC: "No problem! Please swipe your card here..."
More trouble for R. He's now busy looking at where he should be swiping the card! He tries to insert it in all possible crevices of the swiping machine. I point him to the right way of doing it. By this time he's completely flustered and cannot contain his embarrassment!
LAC: "Ok, now can you tell me your zip code, please?"
This seems to be a check that some places have in place to verify the authenticity of the card being used.
R, by this time, was in a different "zone", hardly paying attention to what was going on there...He first tries to decipher what the lady is saying, then is in two minds whether to ask her to repeat her statement or not. But his ego wins this round of the battle and he decides, although hesitantly, to answer the question to the best of his understanding.
R: "M...X...Y...Z...P...", he trails off, looking for some hint of a positive expression on her face.
Here's what happens. The lady assumed that MXYZPTLK (note: she does not know his name) remembers his zip code with the help of a word and starts to type the corresponding letter on the keypad. If you remember, the keypad looks something like this:
The lady is busy typing his name on the keypad...poor lady! But after a while she stops...zip codes are usually 5 characters, why is this guy blurting out more letters than needed?!
Enough, I tell myself, but by this time I'm unable to stifle my laughter anymore...but I manage to tell him as decently as possible, "MXYZPTLK, she's asking for your zip code..."
R: "Oh, It's actually XXXXX..."
By this time, I'm on the verge of bursting, ready to barge out of the shop so that I can laugh to my heart's content. Luckily, I don't have to wait long and I have a wonderful laugh at poor MXYZPTLK's expense.
:) Poor guy, you can imagine how much we teased the poor guy, and this continued for 2 years until he graduated and is now starting work for a company, possibly helping others to cross the bridge. ;)