Tag Archives: Fear Factor

No Comprendo aka La La La Pencil

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


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.



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.


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!

Aftermath of Growing Up Catholic

I grew up Catholic.

When my parents got divorced mom packed up the car and we moved back to Philadelphia, where her side of the family lived. My Aunt had her daughter in the local Catholic school and so Mom sent me there too. To be honest, I was relived when I heard I’d be required to wear a uniform. My thought, to be exact, was: “At least I won’t have to worry about what to wear.”

I was in third grade.

Enter: Saint You Be Damned and Take the Elevator Straight to Hell Parish and School. Although I loved the ease of the uniform, where the only decision was which pair of shoes to wear….Penny Loafers or Saddle Shoes, the organization was enough to terrify a small kid.

It’s compatible to working with The Mob.

Boy, do I have stories. Between the nuns, gym tyrant, bullies and various liturgical performances ….I’ve got stories. However, I want to reflect on the mark the church mob has left on me.

Starting catholic school in third grade, I realized this was a mistake.

Starting for me in third grade was a monthly trip over to the church to go to confession. Kids would be kicking and screaming. Determined nuns holding the confessional door shut. Sinners….repent! Avoid damnation to the fiery gates of hell! Confess your evils, small children!

Since we were all little sinners, on the direct bus to hell, they’d line us up in the massive marble entombed church where we’d nervously wait our turn to talk to one of the priests. Each one of us was turning to the person behind us and asking, “what are you saying?”

The conversations would go like this:
(Mind you while trying not to get caught talking by Sister Whip Your Ass Fast)

: Mary, what are you going to say?
:: I’ve chewed gum in math class.
: Good one, I’m going to say I lied about my homework.

: Dude, what sins are you using?
:: Fighting with my brother.
: Cool. I’ve got stole my sister’s baseball.

Hands would be sweating. Hearts pounding. Stomachs churning. Kids would be trying to figure out if they could fake out the nuns and quickly return to the pew without having to go inside the little box or behind the privacy screen.

We’d be standing, some with our foreheads pressed against the cool marble wall, in line praying the same thing:

Dear Lord, don’t let me forget the words. What if I forget the words? I hate this. I hope I don’t forget the words. I have to pee. Don’t let me forget the words. What did I say I was going to say? Oh my god, I forgot my sins! Don’t let me forget the words. This is stupid. I hope I don’t get Father 3,000 Hail Marys today. Please Lord let me get Father Just Get Out of Here Kid today….

Options: screen in a box or face to face. Early version of Fear Factor. I always chose the privacy screen, inside the little box.

Once inside you knelt down and it was dark. Except for a little tiny pin prick of light that shone upon “the instruction” card. While waiting, you could hear the mumbling of the priest behind the fancy screen.

For me, it was always the same process:

1. Quickly read the instructions as I’m supposed to have all this stuff memorized.

2.. Remember this month’s sins.

3. Pondering would it be bad to pretend faint to get out of this situation? Of course, the confessional is so small I’d end up falling and cracking my head open on the marble floor.

Upon graduating 8th grade and moving into high school one theme came up again and again: No more forced confessions! Thank you! We are free at last. We were a lucky bunch, we survived it all. Thank you Jesus.

Enter 9th grade religion class. You can imagine my horror when surprise, surprise, our teacher announced we were going to the chapel for “confession.” CRAP! Eyes darted around the class, beads of sweat broke out on foreheads and I swear a couple kids fell out of their seats. WHAT?!

Up we go to the chapel….conveniently located inside the school. I still remember this day because as we sat in the chapel and the nun announced, “Father Get Your Act Together” is ready to hear your confessions. Not one person got out of their seat. You could have heard a mouse squeal with delight over a cheese crumb. We were in the collective mind set of: if you’re really still and quiet, she won’t see you. We were the hunted, finally out running the hunter. Sins be damned….we’re not going.

Needless to say, I haven’t been to confession since.

You can imagine my trepidation when my Better Half suggested we go to church – on a non-holiday Sunday. He grew up Baptist? Methodist? I can’t remember what he told me. Anyhow, the week before last, we decide to walk over to the non-denominational church, where a friend of ours attends. Honestly, our friend’s dad is the minister. They seem like a normal family so we thought we’d give it a whirl.

Better Half and I decide to wear nice jeans and sweaters (non-matching). Please note, I was not wearing jeans that required me to lay down to zip them up or paint them on…thank you. I wasn’t sure what to expect and as a grown Catholic, I was having flashbacks. I was pretty sure I was on the Hell Express wearing jeans.

As we walked over I continued to argue silently to myself:

What if we’re under-dressed?
At least we’re going.
Should I have worn heels?
Who cares!
Maybe I should have worn khakis?
Get over it Catholic school survivor!

We hit the parking lot and I’m now voicing my concerns out loud about my attire when I see it. A woman walking up to the front door in pajama pants. Yep. Full blown, cartoon character, fuzzy pajama pants with a blue sweatshirt. I look at my Better Half and smile. If God lets in with pajama pants then I’ll be okay in jeans. No, I wasn’t worried about Better Half wearing jeans as I’m 100% certain he didn’t grow up under the Catholic mob.

Of course, there’s more to say in regards to the service. Anything other than the usual: stand, sit, kneel, beat yourself into submission, we’re all doomed sinners….Catholic service is strange to me.

My Better Half, being the smart man he is, conveniently locked me into my seat by selecting a seat that required either I climb up over an elderly regular attending sinner or be restrained by him on the aisle side. As I sat and pondered my surroundings I thought silently to myself…I don’t see any confessionals. This is going to be interesting.