I had to go to the doctor's office this morning because my primary care physician didn't care for something she saw my EKG. I got there early because I lost the paperwork they had mailed and wanted to be sure I got it filled out before my appointment time at 930. As I waited in the waiting room after filling out my paperwork, a couple other patients wandered in. One of them was a mid-30s black woman whose shirt button had unfortunately come undone, and I battled within myself whether I should bother telling her or not. I mean, it was a nice thing to do (I think), but at the same time I didn't want to come across as pervy. There were two women in front of her, and the receptionist was a woman; I figured I would just let one of them tell her. I mean, it was pretty obvious.
But they said nothing. And so I thought, well, what would I want someone to do if our positions were reversed. And I decided to go ahead and tell her, quietly so as to avoid embarrassment.
I said, "Ma'am?" She looked at me and I motioned to her to come closer; when she did, I said quietly, "Your shirt button has come undone" and I motioned on my own shirt to the place where her button had come undone.
She looked at me and said "No," then returned to her place in line. I shrugged it off; I figured maybe she didn't have a button on her shirt for some reason.
A few moments later, a black man came in and set down in one of the chairs. I wondered if it was her husband, and sure enough she said something to him. In French. And he walked back out of the room, I think to get something from the car.
I looked back at her as she stood in line, still bothered about the button (I promise I wasn't trying to seek a glance), and saw that she did indeed have a button on her shirt. So I decided to try again, this time in French.
"Excusez-moi, madame. Parlez-vous francais?"
She looked at me and arched her eyebrows, carefully said, "Oui."
I knew that I didn't know all the words in French to say what I was trying to say, but I came up with something along the lines of "Dans la chemise..." I motioned again. "La bouton ... est ouvert." And she looked down and saw what I was talking about and thanked me as she hurriedly buttoned up.
"Pas de quoi."
And then she started speaking to me in French. So I had to confess, "Je ne parle pas francais bien. Un peu seulement. Je suis desole." So she searched for the words in English to tell me that she didn't understand me at first and she thanked me so much for telling her. I said "De rien" a couple times and then mercifully the nurse called me back into the office.
So that's my story. I got to use my halting French for a positive reason. What I can stop wondering, though, is what she said "No" to when I first tried to tell her about the button. As I'm pinching the middle of my shirt between my breasts, saying something she doesn't understand – she says "No." I hate to think what she thought of me then, so I'm glad that I was able to turn it around at the end.