You don't quite realize that you have an accent until you end up in a place where no one can understand you. I mean really, you live on an island somewhere where everybody sounds the same, the only people that have accents are visitors.
Albeit some people from Tobago do sound like some people from Grenada, and we do often have little dialect mix ups like "that's my own" vs "that's my one" (it's neither really, simply.....it's mine), you never really feel like you cannot be understood. But anyways, Miami International Airport, July 31st, 2002; Burger King, concourse C (if I remember correctly):
"I'd like to have a Whopper with bacon and cheese please"
HUH - the way she pronounced it sounded more like HAAAH, and it seemed guttural as though coming from the depths of her lower intestine. HAAAH like she was mocking me for being a lowly islander with no communication skills. I really don't like this word now.
Huh........what, am I not speaking English? I clearly understand you, what exactly is the problem here? I would have thought that a burger with cheese and a coke was a simple enough request. Apparently, trinidadian, in its raw form (which is odd as I always thought I spoke English and not "trinidadian" or "islander" for that matter) is as difficult for the average American to understand as Jamaicans, Bajans and old school people from Paramin are to us.
I had a new found respect for the oft ridiculed "Freshwater Yankee." You all know what I'm talking about............your homeboy or your homegirl, travels abroad for the first time, spends 2 minutes in DC on a quick stopover but comes back home to T&T with a thick US accent as though born and raised in Montana somewhere.......freshwater yankee.
It is often said that there are 3 distinct groups of individuals gifted with an uncanny aptitude for assimilating and blending seamlessly other cultures.........Jamaicans, Trinis and Nigerians. Which brings me to another point; trinis are seemingly an unknown entity to the general American public. People hear me speak and it's automatically assumed that I'm either Jamaican or an African. No disrespect to my yard people but there are islands in the Caribbean other than Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
My run in with the Burger King lady also did something else. Incidentally, one of my favourite (spelled with a "u" in there like it should be.....so my Americans, don't hate) beverages to drink is Coke. Every so often when someone asks why is it that I only drink Coke, I think 7 years back to my first day in this country and my Burger King encounter........really and truly, the only word that the poor lady was able to understand from me was COKE.
From that point on, to avoid having to hear that annoying "HUH," I'd just go ahead and order a Coke.