Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Open Letter to the Counter Staff at the Portuguese Bakery Near My Home

Dear Ladies,

How are you? I am fine. You look very lovely today, despite your unflattering aprons.

I’ve been patronizing your bakery on and off for three years now. In that time I’ve always tried to be polite and pay promptly for my bagels, coffee or pastries. Despite my friendly overtures, I am convinced that you all want to murder me. How can this be so?

As sure as Sumol is made from pineapples, your immortal souls are made from hatred for Michael Balazo. Why do you hate me? You don’t even know me. If you knew me and hated me, I would applaud your sagacity. I would even make the job of hating me easier by supplying you with humiliating details about myself as ammunition (e.g. I avoid certain streets because I’m afraid of the homeless man who chased after me in December). Until you make the effort to get to know me, until you can articulate specific reasons for despising me, I can have no sympathy for you. All I can do is speculate on the nature of your hatred….

Perhaps you hate me for not being Portuguese? If so, I can’t do anything about it. Yet. Maybe one day gene-therapy will allow me to “become” a Portuguese man, but at that point the ideas of “race” and “tribe” will be meaningless. Do you agree with my views, ladies?

I also have my “Paradise Lost" theory. This theory is based on the assumption that my face reminds you of the warm tropical winds that blow in from the Atlantic onto mainland Portugal—the very winds that comforted you in childhood. Looking at my face, you dream of sunning yourselves on a beach in the Algarve or of enjoying a glass of porto at a Lisbon café… but then reality comes crashing down on you in all its inexorable bleakness. And you hate my face, the reminder of all you’ve lost by exchanging mediterranean sunshine for the brutal Canadian winter. This is probably what’s going on between us.

Maybe a role-reversal is in order. Why not let me serve you coffee and pastries for once? I think it would be educational for both of us. I’ll get to scowl near bread and you’ll get to dress up in my clothing. “Hello, Michael!” I’ll say to you, my unhappy, female dopplegangers. And you, as the “customers” will see what it feels like to be rebuked for the crime of paying for your croissant with coins.

You don’t like the idea?

I guess what I’m trying to say is: please spare my life.

Michael Balazo

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