I wrote a few months back about ethnicity and assumptions people make, based one what they think you appear to be. Oddness happened again today.
I had just arrived at the ward and was paging thru the computer reviewing that days labs, when one of the nurses started to gush how beautiful my hair clip was. At that moment, I couldn't remember which one I had put in this morning. "I love celtic knotwork and zooglyphs; that one looks incredible in your red hair." Oh yeah, I dug out the celtic hounds. I turned to thank her, but before I could say anything, she saw the chain on my neck and exclaimed, "Wow, a triskele! That's gorgeous!"
"Actually, it's a triquetra." Then I drew her a triskele.
She then pulled over the neck of her scrub shirt to show me the top of a very elaborate multicoloured celtic knotwork tattoo on her left upper chest, which was followed by her turning around to show me the top of an even more elaborate knotwork tattoo on her upper back. I'd never met this young woman before and there I was, looking into her shirt, on invitation no less. This was followed by a chat about her time in Ireland, tracing her family roots to the old sod, a few years back. She's Irish, 3rd generation in this country, and very bonded to her ethnic roots.
"So," she queried, "what part of Ireland is your family from?" She looked crestfallen and somewhat confused when I told her they weren't. That my maternal grandfather was from UK (Yorkshire) seemed plausible to her; hearing that most of my family is eastern European and that some likely trace back to Turkey, threw her. She straightened out her scrubs, almost uncomfortably.
I then went in to see my patient, a latina elder, who was speaking with her nurse thru a translator. My patient lit up when I walked in. I do like seeing her, and it's mutual. The translater remained there, dutifully translating everything the nurse was asking and my patient's responses. Now, I do speak Spanish and generally don't use a translator. However, even though I was speaking with my patient in Spanish, and she with me directly, the translator continued, repeating everything I was saying, and dutifully translating her responses to me. This went on for several minutes. I finally turned to the translator and thanked him, in Spanish for his good work. I think that may have been when it hit him; the Gringo was speaking Spanish. He blushed. My patient giggled. She has the best school girl giggle for a woman in her mid-70's.
Walking back out to the desk, I find Ms. Ireland gawking at me. Appears she overheard the conversation with my patient and the translator. She leaned towards me and whispered quietly, "where did you learn your Spanish?" I thought of saying "at home", but that would have been both unfair and untrue. I'd tweaked her assumptions enough for one day.