Hablar o No Hablar?
My mother ordered a freezer to be delivered to my house this morning. I don’t really want a freezer since there isn’t room in our casita, but the reason my mother wanted us to have it is so that she can put food in it, y en todo honestidad, when someone offers us comida, we don’t turn it down.
Anyone with a blue collar job like my husband, particularly in any sort of construction-related industry, pueden decirte, the winter months are difficult. They cut hours at work and think nothing of sending everyone home for an entire week, (which is what we’re looking at end of December. A whole week without a pay check! Feliz Navidad, right?)
Ni modo, we always manage to survive. Some would say Padre Dios is looking out for us, others might say we’ve got hustle, a little suerte doesn’t hurt either – pero la pura neta es que, it’s all of those things – and we have good familia that care about us on top of it.
So anyway, the freezer – I told Carlos last night that it would be delivered and he says, “Behave yourself.”
“What does that mean?”
“With the delivery guys.”
“You know they’re going to be Latino.”
“Carlos! No sabes! Don’t stereotype.”
“I guarantee they’ll be Latino… behave…”
Typical Carlos. Siempre celoso! Well, the delivery time was between the hours of 9 am and 11 am, but I’ve had too many delivery men show up early when I’m half-naked, so I got ready early this morning. Sure enough, at 8:30 am, without even a phone call for warning, the doorbell rings. I open the door and there is the delivery guy … Latino, por supuesto, and looking sort of like Tito El Bambino.
Here’s the thing, Carlos knows, as shy as I am and even though I think he trusts me, I can be a flirt, and that’s why he told me to “behave”. So when the delivery guy asked me in a thick accent if he should use the back door or front door (not a euphemism! Don’t be malpensados!), I had to resist the urge to break out the Spanish. I knew that if I started speaking Spanish then the delivery would become less business-like and I would end up chatting, (even though one of the first things I tell people, by way of explanation for why I’m a Spanish-speaking gringa, is “Mi esposo es de El Salvador”.)
So the guy disappears back to the truck to get the freezer, and returns with his partner, (another Latino but not particularly cute.) They bring the freezer in and he asks me where I want it, (again, not a euphemism!) …I tell him in halting English, (because the word “cocina” almost stumbled off my tongue), that the kitchen is fine. I sign my name on his clipboard, and I can tell he’s dying to ask me. He keeps looking me in the eye, curiously glancing around the house, (papel picado, a Virgin of Guadalupe vela, a wall hanging that says “Dios bendiga este hogar”, maracas hanging on a door knob, a game of Lotería on the bookshelf)…then he looks at my signature, (how I love the little accent over the ó in López!), smiles, and tells me to have a good day, while giving me a backward glance – one last chance to out myself, but I closed the door without speaking a word of Spanish.
So, you can tell Carlos, I “behaved”, but this got me thinking… Do any of you ever have difficulty deciding in which language to conduct yourself when among others who are bilingual? Sometimes when I meet someone I don’t know who begins speaking heavily accented English, and I can safely assume they are Latino – I’m not sure whether it’s an insult to switch to Spanish or not? (As if I’m implying their English isn’t good enough.) I’ve done it before, and people usually seem relieved, smile and open up so much more once they can speak their native language.
Pero, here’s the thing – when I’m speaking Spanish and the person I’m talking to responds in English, I become really annoyed. There’s this chica at one of the Latino markets, (una creída que me cae mal) who does this to me every pinche time. It looks like the most ridiculous thing in the world – me speaking Spanish, and her responding in English. It’s frustrating and I feel avergonzada in front of the other customers.
(This situation not to be confused with switching back and forth between English and Spanish with friends. That is part of a comfortable flow of conversation which I enjoy.)
Okay, what are your thoughts? Hablar o no hablar? That is the question…