Learning spanish


Turns out when I went to get my face painted onto the side of my car in order to celebrate the “Best Looking” title I’d recently awarded myself, I made one serious error. You know that saying, all it takes is one?

It’s true.

Allow me to illustrate: I’d found the crumpled note written in spanish in a grocery store parking lot, it was held to the pavement with chewed gum which had seemed like a good sign at the time. Smart marketing, if nothing else. I mean, only people with money to spend go to grocery stores, right? The note, if you remember said, “Pintura de su cara de piel a menos que usted nos da dinero. Sentira como un coche por ti.”

I recognized a few words. “Cara” = face (I took a chance on that one because it could have been “car” but since I wanted my face on my car it was a chance worth taking), “usted” = your, “dinero” = money and “pintura” = paint. A make-over of some sort seemed promised.

I did not sign up for then drop out of those Spanish classes for nothing. Furthermore, I pride myself on being a student of the world; it is a quality I am forever trying to pass on to my children.

“This store is called World Market,” I told my daughter when she was 6. I spoke slowly so the impact of my words sunk in. “They sell scrumptuous and cute candy.”

I do what I can.

Back to the note. I needed work done and businesses owners who are illegal immigrants are far more financially savvy than their American brethren. I’m sorry but it’s true. Mexicans who sneak to our country are able to circumvent burdensome financial obligations like business operator licenses, health and fire department licenses, sales tax licenses, building permits, oh the list goes on and on. This ability to waive North America’s Kafkaesque financial minutiae frees illegal immigrants to pass the savings to the consumer!

I called the number on the note. Jesus and I struggled to communicate at first. After I clearly said “dinero para tu” his phone demeanor changed and the dogs in the background fell silent. Maybe I imagined the dogs.

Next day I gathered my best glamour shot from the pile I keep in case of an emergency and headed to the address Jesus gave me on the phone. It was a part of town unfamiliar to me but determination and a desire to show my face and not my a**  (as we say in the South) drove me onward.

We met on the corner near a dilapidated green and yellow building, not my best colors at all. I took my photo and held it against my left rear door and motioned that was where my picture belonged.

Jesus nodded and reached for my keys.

“Cuánto tiempo?” I asked, using my best bus boy spanish from the Mexican restaurant where I’d worked years ago.

“Wait,” Jesus said. He grabbed my picture and drove my car into his place of business. Weeds grew out of the broken sidewalk where I stood just a little confused. After 5 minutes I began walking into the building after my car and Jesus. But, zam! Out my beautiful automobile rolled.

While I marvelled at his work ethic I walked around to the passenger’s side anxious and excited to see the picture I’d chosen to announce my title of “Best Looking.”

Before I rounded the second tail pipe Jesus held out his palm., “$200.”

“I see first,” I said. I was not born yesterday or even last week.

Turned out we’d suffered a miscommunication. My beautiful picture indeed adorned my car’s rear door but it was shellacked on and there was a huge wrinkle in the paper so I looked like Cyclops,  not the award-winner I was. Reluctantly I put $5 in Jesus’s hand. It took another $20 to get my keys back.

That night I got my note translated. Turns out it meant something like they will skin my face for money. I don’t know about that. I’m certain Jesus wasn’t old enough to be a doctor.


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