May 30, 2006

Yo quiero el filete del queso “Whiz wit,” por favor.

Cheez WhizAccording to an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, the neighborhood in which Geno’s Steaks sits has become home to thousands of Mexicans. But apparently Joe Vento, the owner of Geno’s, isn’t happy. So Joe is insisting that his customers order cheese steaks in English. As the pic in the article reveals, Joe conveys this message through two signs that, naturally, are only in English: one sign has a stereotypically pissed-off looking eagle in front of an American flag and declares “This is America. When Ordering, ‘Speak English’”; the other says “Management Reserves the Right to Refuse Service.”

This is going to be fun:

  • It is ironic that Geno’s has signs directing you to order in English given that, in reality, they make you order your cheese steak using magic code words that arguably don’t qualify as English. Remember: a cheese steak with Cheez Whiz and fried onions is a “Whiz wit.” Otherwise, you may be heading to the back of the line, or worse—branded a foreigner.

  • Best quote in the article: “If you can’t say the word cheese, how can I communicate with you . . . ?” I’m just gonna let that one sink in.

  • Joe spends his free time chastising local businesses for hiring illegal immigrants. According to Joe, he’s just saying “what everybody’s thinking but is afraid to say.” Except that Joe likes to say it through the P.A. system in his Hummer as he drives around the neighborhood. No wonder property’s still relatively cheap in South Philly.

  • Joe wants things to be like they were in 1921, when his Italian-born grandfather became a U.S. citizen. His proposal: “Go back to the 19th century and play by those rules.” Ouch . . . . Yeah, I cringed, too. He missed that 1921 was part of the 20th century. Apparently, his math isn’t as good as his English.

Joe may want to rethink his proposal, though:

  • First, Joe admits that even his grandfather had trouble with English. Uh, Joe? If you want things to be like they were when your grandfather came over, but even he couldn’t get the language down . . . ? Ya followin’ me here? Pot? Kettle? Black?

  • Second, according to the Inquirer, there were no meaningful immigration restrictions in the 19th century, except for a bar on Chinese enacted in 1882. I’m gonna go out on a limb here. And say that Joe’s the kinda guy who’d probably be in favor of a few more restrictions than they had in the 19th century. Just a guess.

  • Third, Cheez Whiz wasn’t even introduced until 1952. So if we went back to the 19th century, what would we order our steaks wit? Wait, I’ve got it! Hows about salsa?

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