Tag Archives: clueless

No Comprendo aka La La La Pencil

One thing I’ve learned since moving to Miami is…..I need to learn Spanish.

Pronto.

The local community college, had a Saturday class being offered this summer, “Beginner’s Conversational Spanish.”   Great!  Sign me up.  That’s exactly what I need.

Now, I will be able to make small talk in elevators, listen in on conversations when they think I don’t know what they’re saying and I can tell the Urgent Care to stop leaving messages for Juan….as they only leave messages in Spanish.  On my work cell phone no less.  I don’t know Juan.  How do I know what they’re calling about?  I had to ask one of my coworkers listen to the message, which I knew obviously it wasn’t for me.  It was in Spanish – duh.

Today was the day for my first Spanish class.

I was excited and ready to get going.  I logged the community college’s address into my GPS and headed out the door.  Of course, I had a general idea of where I was going.  Down the highway a couple of exits and then head West-ish.  When I got off the highway and was stopped at the first light, I should have trusted my gut and pulled a u-turn.  There was a vaguely familiar looking man sitting on the side of the road playing music.  On a 5 gallon plastic bucket.  For money.  He had a mustache like Cheech Marin.  Had I been quick enough, I would have snapped his photo as he looked like someone I used to work with years ago.  Enormously large bushy mustache….all you can see on the face…..stache and more stache.

Anyhow, I made my turn and quickly realized this was not the best neighborhood to be driving through.  I was expecting a scene out of West Side Story to erupt at any moment.  As I drove, I continued to keep my eyes open for unauthorized drag races to cross my path.  After a little research, I found that this town in particular had the highest crime rate in America in 2004.  Dear Lord, keep your eyes on the road and let’s just keep going forward.  I should have turned around at that light back there.

The ridiculous GPS, which sometimes sends me in circles.  Literally:

Turn left.

Turn left

Turn left.

Turn left.

Turn

NO!

Didn’t bother to tell me to Turn Right…..and I zipped right past the college.

Turn Left

Turn Left.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.

Click.  OFF.

I pull into the first tiny little parking area.  There is a LAKE of water covering three spots.  Being I am now living in Florida, my footwear is not suitable to navigate this wading pool.  I drive to the end only to realize the last open spot is clearly marked (with a Pictionary sign) for people with babies and strollers.  Crap.  I head out of the parking area and a lady is blocking the exit, trying to decide whether or not to turn in.  She finally decides to give it a try and turns past me towards the pool.  As I head down the road to the next parking lot I see she zipped into the people with strollers spot and I slow down to see if she has any babies with her.

That would be a big NO.

I give her a disapproving glare and continue on my way.  Seriously, parents have it rough enough and now they can get this one little break in life.  Uneducated girl is going to take one of their spots because she’s too lazy to walk from the next lot over.  I hope you get explosive diarrhea in rush hour traffic…  (This is my standard curse.)  Yes, apparently she is uneducated.  Even if English isn’t her first language the giant picture of a stroller should be a dead give away.  My guess is she doesn’t do well in Pictionary or Charade games.

After I get my spot, I head towards building Numeral Uno!  I am a few minutes late and make my way to the second floor to the assigned classroom.  Yahoo….so excited.

I open the door and the instructor first greets me with a “bon jour!”  Followed quickly by a “buenos dias.”  I mutter a quick “hola” while she explains they were just talking about the French language as she teaches both.  Whatever.  I grab the first seat I see, right by the front door.  As I go to sit down I look at the girl a few seats back.

It’s the STROLLER LADY!

Great.  A sign of things to come.  Another indication I should have turned around at that light with Mr. Mustache.

Suddenly the instructor is addressing me.  All I catch is, “Giruod jab, whiuyt?”

The only thing I can say is, “Donna.”  I assume she’s asking for my name.

Then she says, “Luiy weng tldiwl uls?”

My response:  blink blink blink blink.

Again she says, “Luiy weng tldiwl uls?”

Again my response:  blink blink blink blink.  For good measure I shake my head NO.

An older gentleman in the class yells out, “last name.”

Oh!  Powell.  Donna Powell.

Good grief.

She goes back to the question at hand and begins to discuss how things will be listed on the immigration form, regarding your name.  Immigration form?  What the hell?  This is supposed to be Beginner’s Conversational Spanish, not how to fill out your immigration forms.  Well this is strange.  Next up, the instructor, whose name I have not a clue, starts to talk about something that sounds suspiciously like, “come here lama.”  NO clue.  I have not one bit of an idea what this woman is saying.  It continues as she points to the board, each time with a different stress accent.  “COME here lama.”  “Come HERE lama.”  “Come here LAMA.”  She explains in English something about using the “tu” when speaking with small children and the “utes” when speaking to adults.  “Come here lama.”

By this time I start looking around the room to see if there might actually be a lama somewhere.  Here a lama.  There a lama.  Everywhere a lama lama.

Guess what?  No lama.  Damn.

The instructor continues with the lesson:  “Oulkjda  jldoa  pencil  a’kdao kluou!  Hwid, wolwd jweoub aoul?  Taden pencil aera oueab weraouib alkpie. Right?  So then, aoiudf’ag jlareio  aoiejang aliduar ieialgob  alkubow.”   Now I’m looking around to see what everyone else is doing.  Nobody has a notebook out…not even a pencil.  Even the instructor only has a cell phone and cup of coffee on the desk.  Should I ask if I am in the right class?  Is anyone else dazed and confused or are they getting it?  One guy is sitting there smiling like this is the biggest punch line he’s ever heard.  Really?  I am so screwed.

Well, it’s still only the first few minutes of class, maybe she’s going to start explaining whatever she’s saying in a minute.

Cue the hourglass timer…..any minute now we’ll be speaking in English.  Any moment.  Wait for it.  One minute.

“Taljgljb  kjadaljgio  alkjro?  Waoiudgh lkjdfopig qjdagji adlgajgoiuej akfji?  Haidoug lkaj it.  The plural of the uya aor, aoiuf alkjb as it is in English.  Veriu aloiu akdj polg akjb.  You want to aenbo agoiub and then in the French language it is pronounced ela aoub akuouv alouf vous.  Taerib aljboiue jaoe kjgi alkjir; buanb aiuelg which is what?”

Which is don’t make eye contact cause I have no clue what you’re saying and I’m pretty damn sure it’s not English.  La la la chicken.

“Bof lb iead, akjoie afoinl aulz ojghs oaurl and always make sure you ahbie pbiael aieug adiwow.  Now, of course sometimes bagowie wobbloiu aty byru xkiao. Zcait abiuet itub lama aeiu?”

This is getting really, really awkward.  Now it’s obvious she’s asking questions to the class.  I’ve got nothing.  The suck thing is I’m sitting in the front row.  Prime target for being called on.  Duck and cover.  Duck and cover.  No sense in trying to fake tying my shoes. First, because I’m in the front row and second because I’m wearing slip ons.  Total failure.  Whatever happens don’t make eye contact.

Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.

It’s dawning on me that apparently, you need a working understanding of the Spanish language for this “BEGINNER’S” class.  Well had it been a requirement, do you think I would have signed up for this hell?  I have no clue what this woman is saying.  Yatta, yatta, yatta SHE, yatta, yatta, yatta what do you call that? Yatta, yatta, yatta, yatta and then you yatta yatta yatta lama.

How the hell do I get out of this?  I better do it quickly before we partner up for role playing and conversations.  Oh my god, the horror of that thought.  As soon as she turns her back to erase the board I am out of here.

Now she’s talking about pronouns and tenses.  She’s asking questions and don’t you know it, STROLLER LADY is the only one answering.  I don’t want to be rude and leap up from my desk and bolt to the door, but I know it’s only a matter of time before we have to pair up.  What is this Top Twenty Spanish Pronoun Questions?  Let’s get on with it.  Turn around.  Turn around.

Honestly, I shouldn’t worry about being rude and walking out.  After all she’s the one speaking in another language that I don’t understand.  Geez.  That’s rude.  Miss Manners would not be impressed.

I casually take out my cell phone to check the time.  I have only been here 20 minutes.  Well guess what.  Time is up.  Gotta go.  Oh yeah, did you hear that?  Sounded like a fire alarm.  Gotta run.  I casually loop my hand bag over my wrist and pick up my book bag off the floor.  The instructor starts to reach for the eraser and I’m up and out of my seat faster than a naked man being bit by fire ants on the yin-yang..  As I swim through the air to get to the door I hear her say:

“Yzgibb   aoiuearlj olkg  iwkg  aiublka laopiw?  Zkie gubja….”

Don’t turn back, that could have been directed to me…..for crying out loud, this is an episode mix between Fear Factor, Whose Line is it Anyways and Hidden Camera.  I close the door….on what I think is mid-sentence and then breathe a sigh of relief, wipe the sweat off my upper lip and think to myself:  Gotta go.  The lama called……and it said SAVE YOURSELF!

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It’s Either This or That.

Most people, on their days off, prefer to escape and relax by enjoying the outdoors, shopping, being creative, cheering on their favorite sports team or who knows what.  It offers a break from reality and a chance to let go and be yourself.

If you want to dress up like a Storm Trooper and pretend your fighting the Empire – knock yourself out.

If you want to dress up like a Forest Fairy and save the dying Elm Trees – have at it.

If you want to pretend you are the next James Bond, looking for the drop at your local Starbucks – why not.

I, however, enjoy something completely different.  On Wednesdays this summer, instead of doing the obligatory household chores and warding off the evil empire of dust bunnies…I chose to work at Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau, Alaska.

Located right on the docks, next to the parking garage and library…Tracy’s little crab shack  services thousands from May thru September.  Having known Tracy for years, I thought it would be fun to work one day a week for her.  I wasn’t wrong.  This is my second year as the beer wench…..and I love it!

There are two shacks….I’m in shack one.  I’ll take your order, your money and provide your beverages…beer, wine or soda.  Shack two cooks up your crab and brings it out to you.

 

How do I describe Alaskan King Crab?  Nom, nom, nom…..that pretty much covers it.

What’s on the menu?  King crab of course!  Her award winning crab bisque….

Yes, I did say award winning.  Her bisque won third place in the Rhode Island Chowder Cook Off and is the People’s Choice of Seattle and Anchorage.  HA!  Take that Food Network Iron Chefs!  I am of the mindset that you could just cover me in the bisque…I’d be content to lick it off myself.  It’s amazingly good.

There’s also silver dollar sized crab cakes.  Regular or coconut.  You could have Snow Crab, Dungeness (when in season), Alaskan prawns or scallops.  Each and every item is delicious.  You can’t go wrong.

What’s great about The Shack is the reputation.  People come from all over.  “Friends of ours from Belgium said we had to come here.”  Or “The Captain of the ship said this was a must have lunch.”  It’s fantastic.  Of course, you also never know what to expect…

I found it’s best to show up to work each Wednesday as frisky as a feline on premium catnip.  It came in especially handy when the husband, with his camera in hand, couldn’t stop looking at me while his wife was ordering.  Finally, he broke down and said:

“Do you mind if I take a picture of your chest?”

Sure!  I thrust my oranges out there and he snaps a photo of me.  Why?  Well, duh.  My shirt says, “Best Legs in Town!”  Of course, he wasn’t taking a picture of my legs was he?  Hummmm, weird.  Chalk that up to the strangest moment yet in life.

Tracy’s is so popular, we get HUGE lines.  I am talking enormous.  You would think the latest Tickle Me Elmo was being released at the shack – that’s how big the lines are.  If you don’t believe me, check out my photo below.   Yes, it’s definitely worth the wait. Someone could offer fortune telling services while folks wait in line to get to me….they could make a coke dealer’s bank roll in 30 minutes of searching the tourists’ future.

The beauty of a line, is it gives you ages to decide what you want to eat.  Would you like:

A King Crab leg?

Half a Snow Crab?

Dungeness – if in season?

Bucket of King Crab?

Bisque?

Crab cakes?

Scallops?

Prawns?

The menu, is very easy.  However, I’ll be damned if people don’t wait until they get up to me before they even look at the menu.  One of three things occurs when they reach the front of the line:

1.  They know exactly what they want and rattle it off like a Drill Sargent.

2.  They want to know what I recommend.

3.  They haven’t looked at anything and can’t make up their mind.

Those who are in the first group are fabulous.  Ring them in, get their beverage and off they go.  If ordering their meal was an Olympic event, they’d get gold.  No messing around.  Straight to the point.

Those who need recommendations come in two groups.  Those who, after hearing your recommendation say, “Perfect!  We’ll go with that.”  And the doubters.  You make your recommendation, based on their group size, how hungry they are and your gut instinct.

Their response?

“Is it good?”

Okay. Seriously?  I mean really?

I’m looking at you now out of the corner of my eye.  Did you just ask me for a recommendation and then ask if it was good?  No, I’m suggesting you eat crap. Are you kidding me?  Why ask for a recommendation and then doubt what I recommend?

Let’s take a moment here and ponder which one of us is the professional?

Uh, right.

I am…so listen up.

However, it is the third group of people that absolutely, positively, without a doubt, drive me insane.  I’m talking like crazy Norman from The Bates Motel….nuts.  These are the ones that cause me to drink, chew my nails, roll my eyes and curse silently under my breath.

“We just don’t know what to order.”

Alright.  Let’s do this.

You’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes and you still don’t know what to order?  It’s a one page menu for crying out loud!  There’s fewer items on our menu than on a McDonald’s lunch special.

Well, I hope you’re hungry for crab, cause that’s what we’ve got!  (Note: It’s helpful when you can flip a little bit of shit their way as part of the ambiance.)  This declaration only leads to one question:

What kind of crab do you have?

We have King, Snow and Dungeness – explaining the differences between the three along the way.

Huh.  (Imagine far off gaze, as if I suggested marshmallows tasted like motor oil….really?)

I don’t know what to get.  What do you suggest?

And there’s a big speech I could bore you with about Combo Number 1 and Combo Number 2 – but I won’t do that.  Most people decide the Combo 1 is perfect for what they’re looking for and we’re off and running….god bless them.

Still, there’s others that are completely in a stupor.  These folks tend to travel in groups.  Which is probably smart as I don’t know how they’d survive otherwise.  The conversation usually goes something like this ….when dealing with a gaggle of clueless and bewildered diners:

“What do you recommend?”

Well, it depends on how hungry you are.  The number 1 combo is very popular, it’s like a sampler.  You get a King Crab leg, some bisque and 4 crab cakes.

“Does anything come with it?”

No, but you can order a side of rice or cole slaw.

“You have french fries?”

No, just rice or cole slaw.

“What about the bisque.  Anything come with that?”

A roll and butter.

“What kind of roll?”

A dinner roll.

“Anything else?”

No.  But you can order a side of rice or cole slaw.

“Ah huh.”

>> silence <<

“I can order a single King Crab Leg.  Is that the same as the King Crab Leg in the number 1 combo?”

Yep!  Same kind of leg.

“You just get extra stuff in the combo?”

Yep.

“Do you have chicken burgers?”

No.

“Anything other than crab?”

Well we have prawns and scallops.

“I don’t like seafood.”

Okay, well there’s a few other food options along the pier here that may interest you then.

A few weeks ago I had a group of four little ladies who were traveling together.  OMG.  Just shoot me.  This isn’t rocket science – it’s crab.  There’s like 12 options on the menu.  PICK ONE!

“What does the bisque come with?”

It comes with a roll.

“Nothing else?”

No.

“What about the crab cakes.  What do they come with?”

Just the cakes.  You can order rice or slaw on the side.

“Well if I get the crab leg, what comes with that?”

A roll.

“No fries or anything?”

No.

“But the combo comes with 1 King leg, bisque and cakes.  Does it come with anything else?”

No.

“Fries? Or anything?”

Still no.

“Well, if I order the bisque and the crab roll sandwich, what comes with that?”

A dinner roll.

“Oh.  Nothing else?”

No.

At this point I am taking a pencil and slowly carving out my third eyeball.  JUST PICK SOMETHING PEOPLE!  This isn’t rocket science.  It’s crab. What don’t you get?

Tracy’s

King

Crab

Shack

Then the topper are the ones that run you through the 1001 questions and then say,

“You know, I’ll just get a burger and fries.”

We don’t serve those.

“WHAT? You don’t sell burgers and fries?”

No.  It’s a crab shack.

“You mean you only serve seafood?  I don’t like seafood.”

Okay.

That’s it.

Put a fork in me.  I’m done.

I patiently ask  if they see a rock on the counter where they’re standing.  Of course, they don’t.  Oh, damn.  I’ve lost the rock I like to beat my head against.

NEXT!