Wednesday, August 17, 2011

489. Spanish Alzheimer's

So the boys and I were just getting back from running some errands when we saw her: The lady from Maids On The Move. She was walking out of that house across the street, lugging a vacuum.

Queen Virgo started to do some advanced brain-type calculations. The house is messy. There is a maid. If I pay her, she will clean.

I ushered the boys into the house, then I zipped over to catch Maid On The Move before she, well, made her move.

“Excuse me? Hello! How much do you charge to clean a house? My house is about the same square footage as Mrs. Johnston’s house.” I smiled at the lady, trying to give off my best vibe of “My house is messy, but not really that messy.”

Maid On The Move lady stared back at me as if she was from somewhere else, say, another country, a distant country, and did not understand English and, in fact, spoke another language entirely.

I quickly decided that she might speak Spanish, which is lucky because I do, too. I took four (long) years of it in high school, plus two (long) years of it in college, plus I traveled around Spain for several weeks. Yep, I’m fluent.

“Uh, senorita, quisiera saber si puede limpiar mi … uh … mi …”

I totally blanked out on the right word for house. I would like you to clean my cabeza? No, no, that means head.

“Cuartos?” Rooms. Close enough.

“Ah, muy bien! Usted habla espanol! Entonces, si, yo puedo limipiar los cuartos en su casa.” She smiled wide, revealing two gold teeth. She reached in her purse and produced a business card. “Aqui tiene mi numero de telefono.”

I looked down at her card. I wanted to comment, “Oh, you have cards!” but I could not locate the word for card. My (perfect) Spanish was buried deep in the back (locked) storage room of my brain, behind the entire history of the Wusthof knife company, and underneath the specifications of All-Clad copper-core pans, and next to the details of the Nespresso espresso machines.

I remembered the word. “Usted tiene tenedores! Muchas bienvenidos!” I told her she had forks. Many welcome!

She smiled that sympathetic smile you give someone when you genuinely feel sorry for them. Forks. Stupid American.

Well, enough with the small talk. I needed to find out her prices.

“Cuanto cuesta?” I waited for her answer.

“Es que el precio depende, esta muy sucia su casa?”

It sounded like she was hungry and she was not going to give me a price until I gave her some cookies. We were all out of cookies.

“No hay cookies. Soy una madre de hijos hambres que eaten todo mucho. Lo siento.” I shrugged. The lady looked more confused than ever.

She rallied. “Es possible que you puedo ver la casa ahora mismo o mas tarde? Para mi, es necesario ver todos los cuartos. Prefiero mirar primera porque es possible que la casa esta muy sucia, y entonces costaria mas.” Her gold teeth sparkled.

I was mentally transported to my senior year Spanish class. It sounded to me like she had said, “My prices are fair.” In Spanish, sometimes they like to ramble on and on and on and on about non-related things just to keep the conversation going. Those Spanish people like to chat.

I knew exactly how to respond: “Si! Como no!”

She smiled. I smiled. We were having a little smilefest in front of my house on the lawn.

“Mismo!” I exclaimed. The same!

“Pues, yo no entiendo?” she replied, a puzzled look washing over her face. I don’t understand.

“Yo voy a lluviarte!” I will rain on you! I held up her card, pointed at the number, then mimed like I was calling her on the phone. “Lluviar! Pollo!” Rain! Chicken!

“Uh, si. Muy bien. Pues, tengo que ir. Usted es loca.”


I think things went really well. I will call her next week.

(“Muchacha Ole Venidos”)


  1. Ahahaha oh my gosh! Totally choked on my tea!

  2. You kill me. Just don't be like Big Daddy when he calls the florist (aka the flower lady on a bike) and speak really loud and stupid stuff. Then the flower calls back and says jabba, jabba, jabba. Then BD says I think the flower lady is here and by some miracle we have flowers. Although I do wish the miracle on you.

    I had Polish cleaning ladies once and they did not speak English and no I don't speak Polish, worked out for a while.

  3. Arroz con pollo, what a wonderful cleaning almost as well as Bar keeper's...I think. Good luck!

  4. Update: when I called her, she said, "No puedo trabajar para Usted porque yo tengo un empleo nuevo en un banco, yo voy a ser la presidente!" I know this translates to "see you next Tuesday" so I will keep you posted on how it goes. :)


  5. Oh, I loved this. Made me happy that I know some Spanish. Lluviar! Pollo!

  6. Anna, glad you liked it! It was a really fun one to write. =) I still laugh when I re-read it. Thanks for taking the time to write a comment.


  7. Oh, I can SO relate. Ages ago, we lived in Argentina, and I got pretty good at Spanish. Then we moved to Slovakia/Moscow/Luxembourg, and all my Spanish got pushed out the window. One day I had to call my husband because I had forgotten how to say "boat," in Spanish!

    Once, in Moscow, I was in a pharmacy, buying de-lousing shampoo for my kids (not that they HAD lice, but there was an epidemic at school, and we were all warned, so we were all of us itching). I did not have the skills to carry out the conversation with the drugstore clerk in Russian. She spoke no English. "Espanol?" I asked.

    Turned out she had a colleague who spoke Spanish.

    Once he arrived, however, I could NOT make a sentence. I stood there, with my little mental hourglass spinning, while I tried to switch over by counting to ten in Spanish. This finally worked, and I was able to remember that the word for "I have" was "Tengo."


  8. Expatresse,

    love it! you are upstaging my story though. might have to re-write my whole story and incorporate yours (because it is much superior!) as if it happened to me. ha! (not really, I am waaaay to lazy to re-write or spellchekc for that mattre)

    uno, dos, tres, tengo!


  9. That happens to me in English sometimes, nevermind another language.

  10. glad I am not the only one!!!



When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)