In gauging exactly what sort of car I was looking for, he then asked, "Are you going back to your country?"
Am I going back to my country? AM I GOING BACK TO MY COUNTRY? I don't look like a FOB, act like a FOB, talk like a FOB; why you gotta treat me like a FOB, man? I would be less confused if I gave you the impression that I was Fresh Off the Boat, but my English is unaccented. Are you completely unfamiliar with the concept of foreigners peacefully and happily coexisting with white folk in America for many decades now? I WAS BORN HERE.
It was certainly one of the most bewildering things that's ever been said to me. I'm reminded of the woman in Legoland who presumably assumed I was an engineer because I was Indian and then asked me whether they made a lot of movies like Juno in India. Just like her, this man meant no offense at all; his tone was inquisitive and genial. The subtext was not "When're ya gonna git back to yer doggone country, ya dirty furriner?" but "You're not from around here, so perhaps you intend to go back to the homeland in a few years, which will have some bearing on what car I show you."
Confused though I was, I answered politely, "No, I'm staying."
I've rarely encountered hardcore racism, but it's this sort of stealth racism that keeps me on my toes. I was once asked by a girl on the bus in junior high whether I liked being Indian. I didn't know how to answer since I had never not been Indian, so how could I know? It wasn't as if I had a choice, anyway.
It's like some people don't know how to interact with people of other skin colors, like we make them all awkward. And in their misguided good intentions, they end up saying the most inane things. We're just people, the same as you, you fools. Don't get all weak in the knees and addled in the brain. The man was very nice and friendly throughout, though, and aside from that question, he treated me like a regular person.
I should probably be offended—and to a mild extent, I am—but mostly, I find it hilarious. I can't stop laughing about it. Am I going back to my country? Am I going back to my country?
No, sir, I am not. Newsflash! We're here to stay.