A Quiet Breakfast  

Posted by Brock Booher

Have you ever had to order food in a foreign country where you didn't speak the language and they didn't speak English? Here's a short segment I wrote for an exercise that shows how much you can communicate without talking. Please feel free to share any similar experiences, or explain some other nonverbal ways of communication. Just keep it clean : ).

A Quiet Breakfast

It was our first day in Brazil, and after a long sleep, Mike and I were starving. “I hope somebody speaks English in the restaurant. I’m starved,” I said as the elevator door closed.

“Who cares if anyone speaks English? You can get by without words in most places,” answered Mike. He had traveled all over the world, and this was my on-the-job training. “In fact, I’ll bet you breakfast that I can get us in and out of the restaurant without saying a word,” he said with clever smile.

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “You’re on.” We shook on it.

The bell rang and the door opened. Mike looked at me, winked, motioned with his head, and led the way to the hotel restaurant. As we approached the restaurant a young woman smiled and asked us something in Brazilian. Mike smiled in return and held up two fingers.

She nodded, grabbed two menus, and ushered us to a table with a motion of her hand. I took a seat across from Mike as the waitress served up a menu to each of us. Mike held up his coffee cup and smiled. The waitress nodded and looked at me. A little unsure, I hesitated in surprise, but then realized why she was looking at me and turned over my coffee mug. I’m not a coffee drinker. She nodded and scurried off in search of coffee.

Mike looked over the menu with the furrowed brow of a librarian and pursed his lips. I looked at the menu and saw the reason for his intense focus – the menu was all in Brazilian. He brought a finger to his lips and looked up as if he was searching for a translation to appear somewhere in the air above his head.

Just then the waitress appeared with a pot of coffee and began filling his cup. When the cup was two-thirds full he motioned horizontally with his hand, and she stopped filling. She held up a small ceramic pitcher with her left hand and motioned with her right hand. Mike smiled and gave a big nod. The waitress poured cream until the mug was almost full. Mike gave her a thumbs-up, took a sip, and let out a satisfied sigh. The waitress smiled and held up a pitcher of water to me. I raised my glass with a smile and she filled it with ice water.

Mike rotated the menu on the table towards the waitress and pointed to one of the dishes listed. He put his thumbs in his armpits and flapped his arms like wings. Then he made an oval shape with his fingers and nodded with questioning eyes. The waitress let out a chuckle, and nodded. Mike tapped the dish listed on the menu definitively, and gave a coordinated nod. The waitress wrote it down and looked at me with questioning eyes and pencil poised. I simply tapped the menu on the same dish hoping Mike was ordering us eggs.

The waitress took our menus and orders and headed for the kitchen. We sat like two kids playing the silent game as we waited for our food.

About ten minutes later the waitress brought two plates loaded with thin sliced ham, scrambled eggs, and some rolls with cheese melted on top. Mike gave her a big toothless grin and rubbed his hands together in anticipation, and then readied his silverware and napkin. Getting into the spirit, I motioned to my glass for more water. She nodded and filled my glass with water and recharged Mike’s coffee cup.

We ate in quiet satisfaction, only breaking our silence with the tinkling of silverware. Mike finished before me and placed his silverware on his almost empty plate, put his napkin next to his plate, and pushed his chair back slightly. He slouched his posture and sipped at the remainder of his coffee looking like the cat that ate the canary. I just shook my head and finished my breakfast.

When I tossed my napkin on the table, the waitress approached with the bill. I reluctantly reached for my wallet, but Mike held up his hand in protest and smirked. He pulled out some Brazilian money and paid. You could tell from the waitress’s eyes that the tip was more than sufficient.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 24, 2010 at Monday, May 24, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Travis Dutson  

It is amazing how much we can communicate without the spoken word if both parties want to.

May 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM

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