We went to a restaurant with our Chinese teacher and he taught us a lot of useful phrases. One very useful phrase is not too spicy. Wo bu yao tai la! Tenille modified this phrase a bit because "not too spicy" might mean a little bit spicy. She wanted "NOT SPICY AT ALL!" So she has been saying "bu yao la".
This week, we went to the hospital because our good friends just had a new baby. As good Mormons do, we wanted to bring them a meal, so we stopped by a Thai restaurant next to the hospital. I ordered about 4 things from the menu, then Tenille started to order off the menu. After each item, she would say, "Bu yao la" indicating that she wanted it not spicy. The waitress looked to me and showed me her order pad (as if I could read Chinese), then started listing off the items. Although I can’t read, I can count. I noticed that she only had 4 things on her order form. She had written something else, but then crossed it out.
I opened the menu and pointed to what my wife wanted to order. Then she looked at me funny, and repeated, "bu yao le." Then I realized what was happening. "Bu yao le" means, I don’t want. So, I pointed to Tenille’s choices and said that we do want them. "Wo yao!" Then Tenille jumped in and started repeating, "bu yao la! bu yao la!" Then I had to say, "No NO NO! Wo yao! Wo yao!" as I motioned to Tenille to please stop helping!! And I said, "Wo bu yao tai la!" Which means "not too spicy" but it was the best we’re going to do for tonight. Then I explained to Tenille what I thought was happening. As we waited for the food, I could hear the waitress muttering under her breath to her colleague, "bu yao le! bu yao le!" I’m sure it was frustrating for her as well. "Do you want it or not lady? and why are you pointing to an item and telling me you don’t want it?!"
Later we had a good laugh about it with our Chinese teacher and he taught us to say, "Wo bu yao la de." Which is much less ambiguous… especially with our crazy American accent.