He’s the doctor who left the building.

Everyone who walks in here today seems to want Ray Ban sunglasses.  That’s good business for us, of course.  Let other days learn from this one, and then add the quirks that make life such an interesting adventure.

Dr. Anthony Chong is busy seeing lots of patients today.  We’re making great sales all round.  A middle-aged woman walks through the door at about 3:00pm.  Nika and I welcomed her, but she ignores us both and starts looking around, which provokes a WTH look from Nika.  Nika walks toward her in a bid to engage her, just as Anthony is escorting a patient out of his consulting room.  He asks her to assist the patient in selecting a frame.  As he turns from Nika and the patient, our mystery lady stops him and says in Mandarin Chinese, “I want to have my eyes checked.”

Anthony is lost.  “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Chinese can you speak English please?”

“Eh, what are you saying? Speak to me in Chinese, can I have an eye exam here?”  Anthony starts a game of charade in the hope that he can get her to understand that he doesn’t speak Chinese.  She’s having none of it.  She’ll have him speak to her in his “native language” at all cost!

I decide that Nika and I have had enough fun at Anthony’s expense.  What would I have another do for this woman, if she happens to be my mum?  I walk over to her and say, “Tā kěyǐ bù shuō pǔtōnghuà.” (Mandarin for “He doesn’t speak Chinese.”)  She’s stunned.  It takes her a minute, or 2 to link the words with my face.  She looks at me and temporarily forgets why she came to the clinic.

“You speak Mandarin?” she asks incredulously.

“Yes, I do speak a little Mandarin.  You can have your eye exam here,” I continue in Mandarin.

“Wow! You speak great mandarin; I’m very impressed.  Where did you learn it?  Have you been to China?” and on and on.  How language connects!  She’s obviously excited to see an African girl speak her language that well.  After I’ve answered her avalanche of questions, I bring her back to the reason she’s in the clinic.

“I was talking to this man,” she says, as she points to Anthony, “but you say he can’t speak Mandarin. Does he speak Cantonese?” she asks.

“No, he doesn’t speak Mandarin, or Cantonese.  He’s not Chinese, in fact.”

“What nonsense are you saying?  He’s Chinese; how can he not speak any Chinese at all?”  There’s a tone of disbelief in her voice.  You see, although Anthony Chong is of Chinese descent, he’s Jamaican by birth and couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin, or Cantonese to save his life.  He does speak some Jamaican Patois, and that’s a show to see live.  I remember when he spewed out a few words in Patois, just to convince me he’s Jamaican.  It took deliberate effort on my part to connect the voice with the body that was speaking.

Anthony has long left us, in an attempt to remove himself from the conversation.  He is the subject, but he decides we can carry on very well without him and we just may leave him alone, if he disappears.  We exchange names and more pleasantries and forget about Anthony altogether, as I book her appointment.  She’ll bring her daughter with her, when she comes to see the Chinese Doctor who doesn’t speak any Chinese at all!  She’ll tell her friends about UN Optometry also, because they’ll find someone who understands them, when they visit.  How sweet.

Anthony Chong plays ultimate Frisbee, in his spare time.  He’s very competitive out there, but laid back in here.  I often catch him watching replays of video games online, during the quiet moments.  Otherwise, Matthew and he are having an animated conversation on the latest episode of a video game.  Anthony loves reading and eating too.  He loves a good bite!

A fortnight ago, when the new Mexican joint opened a block away from us, they gave out free Burritos, to win patronage.  Anthony was late that morning; he didn’t have any early appointments.  He shared the news of free Burritos with Matthew and together, they decided to leave at 11:00am, before the first patient would arrive at 11:30am.  They thought to beat everyone else to the free Burritos, by turning up an hour before lunch time.  It was cold and windy and worse; it was pouring that morning.  Nevertheless, Anthony and Matthew were motivated enough to brave the weather and stand in the rain for the Burritos.  It took longer to get served than they expected, though.  Apparently, others had turned up with the same game plan, so they queued and waited and huffed.

The 2 happy school boys returned to the shop at 11:45am, with Burritos in hand.  Anthony asked about the 11:30am appointment.  “She called to cancel,” I said.  You should have seen the smile on his face!

“Great I can have my free lunch early, muhahaha.”

I recall another incident which so typifies Anthony’s attitude.  I once asked why we have to work on national holidays?  His reply; “Have you seen me? I’m Chinese!”  Oh, really?  Dr. Chong is a fun guy.  When I was first introduced, he seemed like a nice quiet nerdy doctor.  On my second day at work he greeted me with “Yo yo yo what is up?”  When Matthew pronounced that as insensitive, Anthony replied, “Have you seen me?  I’m allowed to say that.  I’m Jamaican!”  Truth is, his nationality depends on his audience.  Welcome to UN Optometry.


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