My Spanish is so bad. It’s so bad that I drank a whole six-pack of Sol before I realized that it was non-alcoholic. It’s so bad I bought a bag of mustard seeds in the bulk foods section because I thought maybe it was quinoa.
But yesterday I really embarrassed myself. I told the taxi dispatch that I don’t know my own name.
I was so proud when I called from my apartment for a taxi. I understood when she asked what street I live on, gave the house number and understood when she asked which two streets it is between, and could tell her what they were! I asked how many minutes until they would arrive and understood her answer.
So when I was ready to leave HEB, I was feeling pretty good about using my cell phone to call again. So sure enough, when I said HEB and she said which one, I could tell her. Then she said, “Nombre?”
I repeated, “Nombre?” thinking, What number?
My Spanish speaking friends, or anyone reading this who has a basic level of Spanish, I can hear you laughing from here.
She said, “Si, tuyo.” Yours.
Since I don’t have my cellphone number memorized, I answered, “No lo se.”
For you English speakers, that means “I don’t know.”
Yes, it is hilarious.
“Nombre” is “name” in Spanish.
Literacy includes reading, writing, speaking, and LISTENING, and for me, listening is the most difficult. Of course I know that “numero” is “number” and “nombre” is “name.” I know that “nombre” in Spanish also means “noun.” I used the Latin root “nom” in a grammar lesson just the other day when teaching nominatives.
But my ears didn’t make the connection when I heard “nombre” in that particular moment. It took a few seconds to process what I heard. And since I am by nature a high-energy, impatient kind of person, by mouth often gets ahead of my brain.
If I had taken a second to process what she said, instead of wondering “Why the hell does she want my phone number?” I could have considered the context of the conversation and realized what she was asking me. Always when you call a taxi to pick you up at a busy public place like a mall or supermarket, they ask your name, because there are a lot of people waiting for taxis.
But, when you think about it, it would still be pretty embarrassing. I mean, how long do you need to think when someone asks your name? It would be like the scene in A Knight’s Tale when Rufus Sewell asks Heath Ledger what his name is and he answers, “Uhm.”
What’s my name?
Let me think a minute.