I’ve been running around the past couple of days getting paperwork straight for banking and an FM3 visa (sort of a temporary/permanent residency). Yesterday around 4:30 I was in a cab heading towards home. My amiable driver pulled up next to a Mexican woman, perhaps in her early 30’s, who was carrying a huge yellow ceramic planter in the shape of a turtle that looked like it weighed at least 20 lbs. I understood when he asked her if she needed a taxi and told her he was going to take me home first. And I understood the confusion she experienced looking between the driver and me, wondering if it would be o.k.? After carrying crops as a kid, toting trays in a hundred restaurants, and lugging 30 lbs. of photography equipment on my shoulder as a commercial photographer before things went digital, I have super-sympathy for anyone carrying weight. “No problema!” I assured the woman. The planter went in the trunk.
The three of us began the usual conversation, which for the driver was redux: “It’s hot. Where is the rain?” Then I asked the woman what the words for “that looks heavy” are in Spanish? I had to mime most of my question because she spoke no English at all, but she patiently watched while pondering what I was getting to and provided the word. She asked me for the word in English and rolled it around in her mouth. Then, pointing at doors and people on the street, she offered me more Spanish. I love it when people give me these impromtu lessons, but I know I’ll be lucky if I retain one useful word because I’m old and my brain is now swiss cheese!
In a few minutes we made a right onto the street where the Belle Artes is located and saw a relatively large contingent of soldiers in camo and holding machine guns guarding the entrance and the rest of the block. The young woman asked the driver why they were there? She looked worried. “Federales?” I asked her. “Si,” she whispered. Our driver assured her everything was o.k. and said there was some kind of event taking place. He said the word ‘politicos’ in his sentence and I said, in my typical Manglish, “Si, politicos y Hollywood, pero no por nos.” The three of us burst out laughing.
Within two seconds a gringa tried to turn her S.U.V. into us and down the wrong way into the arms of the federales. Our driver cheerfully shouted and motioned to her that it was it was a one-way street, while my companion and I giggled that she had no idea where she was going in more ways than one. Then we saw the transit police truck right behind her. The three of us roared.
I’ve told friends that a big reason that I want to learn Spanish is to be able to understand the jokes. Yet here I am in a cab with no English spoken, laughing together at the absurdities of life. The three of us parted as if we were old friends, with all the wonderful civilities this unknown language uses to embellish daily life.
And I understood every word.