Speaking multiple languages is like a superpower. Multilinguals have the ability to speak privately in public areas, and vice versa—to hear discussions that were never meant to escape the bounds of confidential conversation. If you had the ability to understand every language, and stood in the middle of Times Square for a day, what kinds of things would you parse from parleying passersby? Monoglots rejoice, as no translation will be needed for these stories of polyglots eavesdropping on oblivious orators.
1. The Chinese Korean
A Korean family visited the university that I went to. They were lost and needed help, and I could tell they didn’t speak English. As I was passing them, the dad says, "He looks Korean. Let’s ask him." The mom and daughter answered, "He’s Chinese. Let’s not ask him." 10 minutes later, I met up with my friend and was walking towards the dining plaza. The family saw my friend and asked her, "Where is this and that?"
My friend replied, "Sorry I’m not sure," turns to me and asks, "Hey do you know?" I ended up telling them in Korean where to go, and watched their shocked faces as they didn’t think I was Korean. I do kind of look Chinese. Chinese families always asked me questions at school. So, I had to learn, "Sorry I’m not Chinese. I don’t know how to speak Chinese. I am Korean," in Mandarin.
2. Making Bets
I’m ethnically Chinese, but I grew up learning German. I was in Germany for a student exchange and attended a dorm party one night. Two German guys at the party started flirting with me, and openly discussed who would be able to sleep with me that night. I played dumb and rejected both their advances. A week later at another party I conversed with my other friends in fluent German, right in front of them. Their expressions were priceless.
3. The Brady Bunch
This was a very innocent comment towards my dad, but regardless they clearly didn't think I could understand them. I once overheard some middle-aged guys say that my dad looks like "the oldest kid from The Brady Bunch if he grew up" in Spanish. My dad was down the aisle getting something, and I was manning the cart so they were semi near me.
I just start laughing because my mom had a crush on Greg from The Brady Brunch as a kid, so it was perfect. My dad's name is also Greg! No one was offended, but the guys did look scared for a minute.
4. Sneaky Supermarket Shopper
In high school, I spoke Spanish fairly well. It was not common for someone like me to speak it during that time and for my area. A family was buying groceries, and as I was ringing up the items the father said, "He has not seen the stuff on the bottom, don’t grab it." I rang up what was on the belt, and sat there waiting. After a few moments, I asked about the stuff on the bottom.
They would not look at me for the next two minutes or so after the transaction.
5. Back-Pedal O’clock
It happens to me all the time because I look Middle Eastern when I'm really Hispanic. I was working at a coffee shop and two Hispanic men came in talking mad trash about our food and being confused about the menu. Right in front of me, the guy's like, "Let’s ask this guy." His buddy replied, "This guy? What's this camel going to know about anything here?" (I guess camel is a slur for a Middle Eastern person or something?) I responded in Spanish and it was back-pedal o'clock.
6. The Class Clown
Sometimes my students forget I speak Russian, and start saying stuff that is way too inappropriate for English class. The best was when this one boy, who always finishes his work early and fidgets around with things, was pretending to swallow a pencil. Another boy, who thinks he's very funny, said in Russian, "I always knew you could deep-throat."
That kid turned a beautiful shade of red when I reminded him that I could understand.
7. Careful Who You Cuss
I am half English and half French. When I was 19 years old, I used to run a football class for a summer school in my hometown in England. My dad was the modern language teacher of the private school, which lead me to be pretty knowledgeable about how things worked. When walking through the street at the end of school term, some French exchange students asked me for a smoke.
I don't smoke, so I told them as much and I carried on. I got 5 meters down the street before one said, "Eh merci, fils de pute." This means, oh thanks, son of a female dog. I turned back and asked them to repeat themselves. They apologized and were really surprised—and also extremely embarrassed. They weren’t nearly as shocked as when they turned up to gym class for their first summer class and I was their teacher...
8. The Phone Call
I work in the utility industry. I had a client I was working with trying to get new service to his residence. During one of our meetings, he was on his cell phone when I got there. He continued talking for a few minutes then said something along the lines of, "I've got to go, that stupid white boy is here." He was laughing on the phone then looked at me.
The look on my face must have told him I understood everything he said, because he got stone-cold sober professional.
9. The Uber Pool
I was sitting in an Uber pool. Two Korean guys from a music school were in the back seat while I was in the front. They were discussing sensuality at first, but then they started talking about women in a super disparaging way. Things like, "You have to try a white girl at least once, they're different," or "If you just play music for them, they'll take their clothes off," except the rated R version.
The Uber algorithm decided I should be dropped off first. The one Korean asked his friend, "Where are we going?" in Korean. I answered in English, "He's dropping me off first." They said, "Oh..." in unison, then quickly changed the subject to, "Hey have you eaten yet?”
10. Shop Talk
I’m a white blonde female, but I grew up learning Spanish and ended up living in Chile and Mexico for a time. I am pretty fluent in Spanish. I was 18 years old and getting my car fixed after an accident, and I had to walk around back with one of the guys past the garage where all the mechanics were. This was in Arizona so almost everyone working there was Mexican or Hispanic.
They started saying some really rude things about me loudly in Spanish, and they were laughing. I understood them but was too embarrassed to say anything. With me being white, they probably assumed I didn’t understand them. After my car was done, I walked back around and passed the guys again. This time one of them said something so horrible, I couldn't ignore them any longer. I snapped.
I decided to turn around and tell him off in Spanish—and say that yes, I understood him, and I let him know how rude, offensive, and uncalled for that was. My Spanish isn’t perfect, and I probably didn’t get the exact point across that I wanted to because I was nervous and angry, but he and the coworkers clearly understood that I had heard them and knew exactly what they were saying.
On my way home I called the car place and told the manager what happened and he said he would handle it. I don’t know what happened after that, but I was young and shy and was proud of myself for how I handled it in the moment.
11. Bargaining and Banter
In China, some friends and I were negotiating for some things at a market. My Nordic poster-child friend (6-foot + and blonde) speaks fluent Mandarin. We were talking in English to each other because I had only taken a couple of months of classes at that point. We were going back and forth on prices and discounts if we bought multiple things.
Finally, one of the shop workers asked their boss, in Mandarin, how low he could go. The boss answered that he would accept $2 per item at the very minimum. My friend immediately jumped in, in Mandarin, and said, “We’ll take 5 of them for $10.” Both the shop worker and his boss were shocked, but then laughed about it and sold to us at that price.
They conversed with my friend a little bit, complimenting his language skills and negotiation.
12. Colorful Cussing
I'm from Hungary and I lived in Germany for a few years as an au pair. I was honestly surprised how many times I heard random Hungarians speaking. They never said anything offensive or rude about others, they just...swore a lot, really loudly. It always made my day when I heard a random cuss in my native language in Aldi. I almost never swear in English (a sad lack of variety) but when my friend visited after six months, and I could finally talk with someone from home, I did the exact same thing! Maybe it's a cultural thing.
13. A Beautiful View
I’m French. I was in New York City, on top of the Empire State Building, and a young couple was standing next to me admiring the view. The guy turns to his girlfriend and says in French, "Ahh I need to poo so bad!" I couldn’t help but laugh.
14. The Lady on the Train
I grew up in Thailand and can speak fluent Thai, but I'm mixed race so I look pretty white. This happened when I was about 14 years old and was wearing red lipstick for the first time. I was coming home on the sky train. This older lady turned to her husband and basically said that foreigners always dress promiscuously and that she feels sorry for my parents for raising such a degenerate.
Luckily, my Thai mom called to ask which station I had gotten to, so I started talking to her in perfect Thai. The woman's face was priceless. I kind of wish I had some witty retort before I got off the train, but I was really shy and didn't really stand up for myself at that age.
15. Above and Beyond
I'm Dutch and my girlfriend is Hungarian. I went to meet her parents for the first time at Christmas a couple of years back, and my girlfriend suggested that I should learn a couple of words like, “Hello, how are you?” Those kinds of things. I took it a step further and got a lot of help from 2 workmates, just to surprise my girlfriend and parents.
When we got to her parents’ place, her father was not so keen on me not being Hungarian. He was saying some things to my girlfriend like, "How will we ever communicate?" And, "It's such a shame that you couldn't find someone who is Hungarian or at least speaks it." I look at my girlfriend, then calmly responded to her dad that although my Hungarian isn't the best, I will learn it for them because now they are my family too.
I also thanked them for having me over and told my girlfriend's dad that I hope that one day he can accept me for who I am as an "outsider" as he likes to call it. The moment I did say that, he teared up and said that no one ever did so much for his daughter and his family in this way, and he appreciates it very much. After that, a bottle of Palinka appeared on the table and from that moment on I don't remember much from that night.
Now several years later, me and my girlfriend's dad are really close, although we live on the other side of Europe. Soon I will go again to Hungary for Christmas, and now I am planning to ask him for his daughter's hand. I hope I will pronounce it correctly.
16. Ignorant Insults
I was eating at a restaurant in Quebec, where seriously everyone speaks at least some English who isn't super old, and a couple who only spoke English sat there and complained about everyone around them as if no one could understand a word they were saying. It was crazy because we were speaking English (albeit, not so obnoxiously loud as to draw everyone's attention, as they were) a couple of tables over.
Anyway, it was embarrassing for them at first. Then downright terrible as they even made fun of their waitress right in front of her. Eventually, a manager came out and basically told them to screw off. But as they left, people were commenting loudly in English, and I'm surprised people didn't actually clap.
17. Don’t Hate, Grandmother
I used to teach English in Korea in a fairly small town. Some kids I taught told me about their grandma. She saw a black man at the train station and muttered at him, in Korean, to go wash his skin. She, of course, assumed there was no way he spoke Korean but he immediately answered back, in Korean, “Don’t hate, grandmother.”
She was so shocked and embarrassed that she just stood up and left the station. She took the afternoon train instead.
18. Sign Confusion
This is hard to describe, but I thought it was adorable. I was at a weekend retreat for people studying Sign Language. It was held at a residential school for the deaf and the children were away at home, but a few teenagers were hanging around. A couple of the teen boys were trying to flirt with a girl. I wasn’t paying close attention, and I’m not fluent anyway, but I could tell one boy was asking the other boy to talk to the girl for him, probably because he was too shy to talk to her himself.
Finally, I "overheard" (oversaw?) the boy ask her, "What is your weight?" The girl looked confused and a little disgusted. He repeated the question. The first boy slapped the second boy's hands away and emphatically signed, "What is your NAME?" The girl was happy enough to answer that, and I was glad none of them could hear me laugh out loud.
19. Storage Drawer
In high school, I spent a month in Germany as an exchange student. The family had a son my age. Everyone I met commented on the fact that they had never met an American who could speak German until they met me. One night I shortly after I arrived, I was at a party. Two girls about my age sat down close to me and started talking. I tried to look oblivious.
Girl1 (In German): "Isn't that the American boy staying with Peter?" Girl2 (German): "Yes. He's rather cute, yes?" Girl1 (German): "Yes! I'm going to say something!" Girl1 (English): "Hey! Aren't you the American staying with Peter? I'm Birgitte, and this is Hilde." Me (In German): "Yes, I am! It's nice to meet you both!"
They both turned bright red. It was one of the most fun trips I've ever had.
20. Trash Talkers
I can understand fluent Korean but can only respond in simple Korean or I just respond in English. I was eating by myself in a Korean restaurant and the servers were speaking Korean—literally trash talking me. I just looked up at them as soon as they were talking among themselves about me, they noticed and just dispersed and went separate ways.
I’ve talked to other half Korean folks I know and we’ve all talked about similar experiences of full Korean folks talking trash, all the while them not realizing we understand what they’re saying. It’s embarrassing.
21. Chinese Guilt Trip
I was working downtown (in the US) in a part of the city that is mainly tourists, and was serving a Chinese family one day. The restaurant was the equivalent of a sit-down chain like Olive Garden. I greeted them in English and they responded in English, so I figured that this would be the best method of communication since they did not ask if I spoke Cantonese.
Once I moved onto my next table, I heard the mother tell the father that it is such a shame that my parents worked so hard, for me to not speak Cantonese and work at a restaurant. I went through the whole meal speaking in English and at the end, as I was handing them the bill, I said in Cantonese that, "It was a pleasure serving you and I hope you come again soon."
The mother's face dropped and she thanked me profusely and left a decent tip. I might speak English well, but I also know how to work the Chinese guilt.
22. Making Amends
I had a buddy who grew up in Hong Kong and spoke fluent Cantonese. This was a large Sikh guy with a turban, beard and all. We were at a noodle joint here in Canada, and he leaned in at one point to me and said that the other table filled with Chinese guys were talking trash about us. Later on, he went to the bathroom, came back, and leaned over their table saying he understood everything.
The guys went beet red and profusely apologized and shortly thereafter left. My friend said nothing more and we finished our meal—completely unaware of the surprise that awaited us. We asked for the bill to learn that it had been taken care of by those guys.
23. Innocent Mistake
My best friend lives in America with me, but was born and raised in China. When he first came to America, he went to New York City for a few days with a tourist group. For background, the mandarin word for "that" is "那个" which happens to sound quite a bit like a slur. Well at one point, my friend was walking down the street with one of his friends from China speaking Mandarin, and was pointing some things out.
He, rather loudly, said, "That, that, that, and that!" Luckily the people who were about to punch him realized pretty quickly how poor his English was at that point
24. Lost Tourists
I bumped into a couple of strangers in my city. They were German and I am half German half Italian (I live in Italy), and they asked me in English where they had to go to reach the city center. I told them where (in English again) and then put my headphones on, but I could hear them say (in German), "Look, I told you, not every young person is bad. For example, this girl, she could have ignored us but she helped us." They were an old couple. I loved those two.
25. French Versus German
Not me, but a teacher of mine. My teacher, who spoke both fluent French and fluent German, was on a horse-drawn tour of a city, sitting in the center row of the carriage. A French couple sat in the rear row, and a German couple with small children sat in the front. The children were tired and cold and making a small fuss, but nothing outrageous.
The French couple started insulting the parents and children in French, snidely. The German family didn't speak French and had no idea what was going on, trying to soothe their children and enjoy the ride. My teacher scolds the French couple in French, saying something along the lines of, "If you two bitter people ever manage to hold this relationship together, you'll likely be in the same situation one day. Show some decorum."
My teacher then turned to German couple, and in German, reiterated what the French were saying about them and what he said in return. The German couple asked him to convey their apologies, their hotel room wasn’t ready and the children hadn't eaten yet, and they were passing time until they could check in. That they were sorry for disrupting their evening.
My teacher did so. The French couple looked embarrassed. My teacher spent the rest of the evening visiting with the German family.
26. Suspicious Signals
As an American who works abroad, it always baffles me how some American tourists seem to think that nobody else in the world speaks English. The one that comes to mind was when I was at a train stop where some tourists who were clearly American were talking about how smelly everyone in the country was. Tourist A mentioned that Tourist B should keep her voice down, and Tourist B replied, "Why? None of them know what I'm saying."
What happened next was amazing. A guy standing behind them piped up with something like, "Pretty much all of us speak English." The tourists’ faces dropped and they were silent until the train came. It was excellent. This was in Argentina, for those wondering.
27. Learning Curve
When I was 13 years old, my family moved to Switzerland. At first, I didn’t understand French at all, but slowly I began to learn. My classmates didn’t realize I was learning though, so I got to hear them “discreetly” argue about who had to sit next to me, or who had to put me on their team in gym class.
28. The Just Hostel
I used to be the manager at a hostel in Kingston, Jamaica about three years ago. I speak English, Spanish and understand German, Portuguese, Italian, and French somewhat well enough to get the context. They would often talk negatively about the locals around the front desk before checking in, and would say extremely disgusting things and would generalize about my fellow compatriots (I'm a local, but due to my Hispanic background I look Latino).
"Jamaicans are so lazy," "These guys are always trying to charge us more because we are tourists," "This country is a complete trash hole and backward, no one here is educated." Since I had the right to refuse admission even if they had a booking, I would cancel their reservation and explain to them that it was due to the terrible things they were saying.
I was kind enough to issue a refund to these atrocious persons. The owner of the hostel would back me up and say, "People like that shouldn't stay here anyway."
29. The Multilingual Elevator
These two girls were speaking (in Mandarin) in an elevator about how too many people spoke Mandarin now to use it to have a private language in public. So, one of them told the other one (in Japanese) that they should speak in Japanese instead to trash talk people. Before I got off on my floor, I told them (in Japanese) that I was mixed Chinese and Japanese and understood just fine, so maybe another language was needed.
A man I didn’t know was standing behind me and burst out laughing; apparently, he also understood the entire time.
I'm German, but also speak English. Like almost everyone in Germany. Once I was on a suburban train where I live and there were two Americans who were screaming that all Germans are fascistic, that they are way better than every German and that the language is horrible...you get the point. Someone stood up and said, "Do you really think you are the only people in the train who speak English?"
They literally looked completely shocked and totally embarrassed, while the whole train started laughing at them.
31. Facepalm Inducing
I’m English and Italian. I am fluent in Italian and find it the most beautiful language. I like the culture and history. Anyway, I was young and chose Italy as a starting point for two-week trip across Europe. My friends speak only English. So, we are at the bar, and talking with some locals. One of them is a girl so cute that, at the time, I would never have had the courage to approach.
We all speak English, but she turns to her friend to tell her silently that she wonders if I am good kisser and she plans to find out. I stayed in Milan for few days longer than planned.
32. Insurance Incident
I used to work at GameStop. This lady and her older mother walked in and they started to speak Spanish to each other looking for a game that the lady’s son wanted for Christmas. They eventually find it and then they come to the register; this is where the fun begins (I do speak fluent Spanish but because of a recent work incident I didn’t speak Spanish to people unless they asked me to).
So this lady and her mother are trying to gather their dollars together and while they’re gathering the money I asked them if they wanted to add insurance on to their game for $3. The lady looks up and says yes and then resumes to look for more money. Then they finally get together the original $11 that it cost to buy the game but we’re surprised to when it said $14 on the screen.
The mother of the child asked why it went up to $14 and I said because of the insurance for the game, the lady then says I don’t want the insurance. The lady’s mother then asked why it jumped up and her daughter said, “He added insurance without telling me,” in Spanish. Then her mother proceeds to say, “Wow, he’s just trying to take advantage of people for not speaking his language.”
This, ladies and gentleman, is where I lost it and went full Spanish speaking mode and explained to both of them what was going on and they both apologized. They paid for the insurance and didn’t say a word for the rest of the transaction.
33. Polyglot Powers
I speak French, English, German, and Spanish. I have had some fun ones with the latter two. Once, German tourists were in town, talking about how North Americans are rude and dumb. I politely responded to them that generalizing all North Americans is dumb, and saying things like that was very rude. That shut them up.
In Spanish, I was out with my partner, and a group of Spanish speaking boys started saying things about my partner that while I understand why they'd think them, you shouldn't say out loud. I responded that this is what I thought of their mothers as I was having them the night before. Once again: Triumphant silence and indignant shock was their reaction.
The best polyglot story ever was my Godmother, who is this white French Canadian who was raised in India, and speaks fluent Hindi and Marathi. So, these two guys in an elevator start talking about her physique, berating her for being on the plumper side. As she exits the elevator, she says in fluent Hindi how their mums would not approve of how they were talking to and treating women.
34. The Bollywood Boy
I am a black guy who grew up watching a lot of Bollywood, so I understand Hindi. There are not many Indians in my town, but this time I was buying some clothes from an Indian owned store. They were Indian couple and the woman went in the back of the store to get something, while the man went after her to ask what price he should offer me.
The woman got angry that he left me there alone as I could steal stuff, and how “these people couldn’t be trusted”. After I bought the clothes, I thanked them in Hindi and told them I was no thief. It was good to see their shock.
35. In a Hurry
I used to work at a name-brand retail store, and we got a lot of Chinese clients. Most of them are tourists or people who've moved to the US later in life and don't speak English that well, preferring to speak in Chinese. I hate dealing with actual Chinese clients because their manners are usually not the best and once they know you can speak Chinese, they start demanding lots of stuff from you.
So at work, I avoided speaking Chinese as much as possible, leading to me being insulted many times by them thinking I didn't understand. I've been called all kinds of profanities and blamed for being cheap and not giving them better prices or free stuff (this is a retail store, not the street market). I usually didn't confront these people, but one time this older lady in her 70s yelled "HURRY UP" to my face in Chinese.
Her daughter turns to her and told her even if you tell her to hurry up, she can't understand you. The only reason why it was taking longer than usual was that she wanted me to individually wrap everything she bought. So, I decided to take my time, give her the shopping bag, and said "慢走" which is a formal greeting Chinese people use when people are leaving their house/store.
I'll never forget the old lady's face when I said that.
36. The Importance of Language
I grew up in a border city in Texas. My immigrant parents taught us Spanish, and although they knew English, they weren't confident enough to teach me and my brother. So, in elementary school, I went to "bilingual classes" taught in Spanish in which we would learn the same thing as monolingual normal classes, but in Spanish. We would be taught English slowly through the years, supposedly.
But, the thing about public schools is, they suck. Needless to say, most of us did not learn English at all, and by the time we moved on to middle school, me and my old classmates would form our own clique. We didn't understand the other students, and would just keep to ourselves. I, on the other hand, watched TV every day. I watched it religiously. So, at some point I started watching TV shows in English (with subtitles) and naturally picked up the language after a while, I could read it and understand it but could not really speak it.
It was during this point in middle school that I realized a bunch of the other students loved talking trash about us. They would approach my friends and under the guise of teaching them English, they would try to goad then into saying stuff like, "I am mentally handicapped," because they knew my friends didn't understand. Finally, I'd had enough, so I decided to do something.
One day, I snitched on them to my homeroom teacher. I told her what was happening to a few of the students (in broken English) and she assured me she would pay more attention and stop them from continuing to do it. It wasn't until a few weeks later that some of the kids got caught and punished for doing that sort of stuff.
After this, I realized the importance of learning other languages. Now I speak English and Spanish and I can read and understand French, and read a little bit of Chinese and German. I hope to one day travel abroad and be able to speak the languages spoken in those countries, to get a more fulfilling experience.
37. The Argument
A friend and I (both male) were sitting at a restaurant. Two girls next to us were speaking Spanish, arguing with each other about which one of us was more attractive. Eventually, they both agreed on my friend, so as we walked out, he thanked them in Spanish and they both went beet red.
38. The Local’s Perspective
I worked in the food industry (German here) as a cashier. We had a group of five American girls come in a couple of nights in a row because their hotel was right next to us. They were obnoxiously loud but clearly living their very best life so we didn't mind. However, they were also dressed very scarcely and in heels (this was in winter) and started talking smack about our appearance and clearly felt superior. I was wearing a plain uniform.
To this day I did not understand how stupid one can be—I was ringing everything up while talking to them. In English. Fluently. I just cleared my throat and asked them if they needed anything else, then proceeded to talk to my coworker, in German, making it very obvious that we are talking about them. She started laughing at the sheer absurdity of the situation and the girls clearly felt insecure right away.
Just don't visit another country "for the experience" and be rude to the people that live there and help you along.
39. A Pair of Compliments
My ex-boyfriend was born in Azerbaijan and spoke their dialect of Russian (I think that’s how that’s worded). He overheard some dude talk about how good my chest was when we were out once. He let him go on for a bit, translating for me while we laughed before saying something along the lines of, “Yeah you should see them without clothes.”
They left quickly and were very red. Absolutely hilarious. My chest isn't as nice now, though. Aging sucks.
40. Fat and Lazy
On a transatlantic flight I had a row to myself. In the air, the flight attendant asked me to switch with a couple who didn’t have an extra seat for their baby. No problem. Then they moved me again for some reason. After I sat down, the lady across the aisle asked me to switch with her boyfriend, who was one row ahead of me. I let out a deep sigh and she told me not to worry about it.
The food service came, and on reflection, I realized it wasn’t a huge deal to move again so I decided I’d offer after the flight attended cleared the trays. Then they started talking to each other in French and called me fat and lazy. So, I stayed in my seat. The weird thing is this was an Air Canada flight. Most Canadians aren’t bilingual but know enough to understand the insults. They weren’t being very secretive.
41. The Manager
So, this was not me but a friend of mine. He is a manager in a kitchen, and when he got this sweet gig in a new kitchen it was like 90% Cuban women. Now my friend is straight-up Irish, red hair, pale skin with freckles, green eyes—totally a white boy. His mother though, was a Spanish teacher and raised him to speak fluent Castilian Spanish.
Well, for his first two weeks the ladies talked a lot of smack about him in Spanish to each other and totally dissed him non-stop. He decided to let it roll, and when the two weeks was up, he held a big meeting with them all to go over the changes he was going to make. He held the whole meeting in Spanish and he said every women's face just dropped and went bright red. Needless to say, they stopped talking smack in Spanish.
42. Caught Red Handed
At 17 years old, just after I got my driver's license, my dad allowed me to take his car. I was on my way to pick up my friend so we could go see a movie. I had a green light, was moving through the intersection, and was hit by a car running a red light. I hit my head, was confused and scared, and was incapable of moving. The accident took place in less than five minutes from a hospital so I was packed up in an ambulance before I could think straight. It was the most terrifying experience of my life—and it was about to get worse.
I was in the same ambulance as the woman who hit me that was screaming about the pain in her knee. In the hospital, we were wheeled into the same room and separated by a curtain. She called her family, speaking in Spanish, and told them to come to the hospital. A nurse gave me my phone and told me to call a parent. So, I called my dad to come.
Her family arrived first. I only took one year of Spanish and, while I couldn't follow the conversation, I could tell they were talking about me. My dad arrived then. He's completely fluent in Spanish though you wouldn't know it from looking at him. And, after hearing the other family's conversation he became enraged and began recording it on his phone.
The gist of the conversation was this. The woman that ran the red light knew she was in the wrong but didn't have insurance. I was a young white girl "rich enough" to have a car. The authorities would believe her, the middle-aged woman, if she claimed I ran the red light. When the authorities arrived to take statements, they went to the woman first as the medical staff had already finished with her—in between the plan hatching she'd been screaming about how her knee hurt and the pain pills the nurses tried to give her were too big to swallow.
I'd just been quiet and undemanding and simply answered questions asked of me and complied with any requests. Then they came to talk to me. My dad asked if either officer could speak Spanish. One did, so my dad played the recording. She got the ticket. The report stated she was at fault and I was not. And yet she still tried to sue me for her medical bills and the damage to her car.
My mom was a secretary at a law office and her boss was kind enough to write her a letter full of legalese saying I'd countersue if she continued to harass me and I had the police reports stating she was at fault. It was an interesting few months.