9 Aug 2008 8:17 pm   //   Filed under: Brooklyn, New York is different

Running errands in Brooklyn

Today I went shopping at the most anarchic Target in America, the one on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I wanted one of these:

Broom and dustpan photo

Shopping in our disastrous Target requires patience, compromise, and a willingness to be surprised. And surprised I was when I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said “Welcome to America – Now speak English!

Whoa. I never thought I’d see anyone in Brooklyn wear that shirt. The shirt bothers me because it’s worn by those who can’t stand the idea of new people hanging around their town. It’s meant to be cruel. Of course new immigrants ought to learn English, but they have plenty of incentives to do so already. Putting it on a T-shirt seems kind of random, kind of obsessive. To quote the Big Lebowski: You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.

Most of all, it’s a pretty weird shirt to wear to the Brooklyn Target. All the Target signage is in English and Spanish, many customers and store employees are immigrants, and business is conducted in whatever language works. It’s an international community and nobody expects otherwise. (The Target mall sits around the block from, I kid you not, a Halal Chinese restaurant.)

The man in the “speak English” shirt was talking on a cell phone. As I approached him, I could hear clearly that he wasn’t speaking English. He was speaking what sounded like an Eastern European language. All of the sudden the shirt took on a whole new meaning. Either the guy couldn’t read what it said, or he read it as a joke and applied it to himself! Either way, I love it!

By the way, the Atlantic Avenue Target, which is always out of whatever I’m looking for, didn’t have any of these in stock:

Broom and dustpan photo

Instead, I bought one for $1.99 from one of those Spanish discount stores on Fifth Avenue.