Friday, July 8, 2011

Chalkin' It Up to New England Language Barriers

Yesterday, I decided to switch up my normal routine, which consists of wearing sweatpants to work until noon, showering on my lunch break, & working from my home office until the end of the work day.

"Be around people!" I told myself. "See the sun!" So I got in my Civic, bound for the downtown Starbucks, in the heart of it all. I parked a block away, paid my $2, & got to work. When two hours had passed, I got up, walked that block, paid my $2 for another two hours, & got back to work. When I walked to my car later, before the second round had expired, I found this gift on my windshield from the Portsmouth PD:

The ticket threw me for a loop, because my meter hadn't yet expired. The ticket was written at 3:36, but my meter ticket clearly showed that I'd paid through 3:58. Being the diligent adult I am, I picked up the phone & dialed city hall to better understand what I was being ticketed for.

This is where it becomes obvious that I do not speak New Englander Endlandese English. Without exaggeration, the conversation went as follows:

"They chawked y'TY-ahs," the woman on the line told me impatiently.
"I'm sorry?" I asked, seeking clarity.
"They chawked y'TY-ahs!" she yelled again. Helpful.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what this means," I said, losing patience & hope & confidence in my mastery of the English language.
"Chawk! They chawked y'TY-ahs!"
Sigh.

It went on like this for some time, her defining the phrase by repeating the phrase, & me failing to understand either the words or the meaning. Finally, I was able to deduce that the police used chalk to mark my tires around noon, then ticketed me when I fed the meter instead of moving my car upon expiry of my initial meter. I didn't actually realize it was illegal to do that, nor did I realize "chalking tires" was a thing, both of which contributed heavily to the misunderstanding.

More importantly, I felt like an idiot. I am able to perfectly understand my friends from Peru, Venezuela, Japan, Israel - all "difficult" accents that don't faze me. But throw a bona fide New Englander in the mix, & it's like I'm fresh off the boat. Say what?
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