“Hello, is Wing there?”

Have you heard the crank call that goes like this:
Caller: Hi, is Wing there?
Answer: No.
Caller: Oh, I guess I must have Wing’ed the Wong number! Hahahahahahahah

You see, my name sounds a bit like “Wing” so when my mother answered such a call decades ago when I was probably still in elementary school, she called me to the phone.

I answered, eagerly, naively hoping a classmate had called me (I was vastly unpopular in school). The caller was incredulous because the joke had backfired and my eagerness turned to paranoia that it had been a targeted crank call as opposed to the truly random call it probably was and I started accusing the caller of being some of popular girls from school. So shocked, the caller couldn’t get out her punchline and it was awkward all around.

For years, I felt ashamed when I remembered that crank call. I was ashamed that my mother couldn’t discern the difference between “Wing” and my name over the phone line. I was ashamed of showing my insecurity and lashing back over the phone. I felt ashamed for my culture to have names like “Wing” and “Wong” out of which you could make these stupid jokes.

It was only very recently when it occurred to me that the crank call just might not be as racist as I had thought all along. Suppose the “joke” had been concocted to make fun of Elmer Fudd who famously could not pronounce his “r”s and would say “wing the wong number” if he were trying to say “ring the wrong number”….?

But I’ve turned the “joke” over some more since this “revelation” and conclude it is still racist.

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