Having spent a bit of time in Texas now, one can't help but notice that many people speak Spanish here.
Good for them.
Wish I could.
Learning a foreign language. Not one of my accomplishments in life.
It was a prerequisite, way back when in the late 70s, that any human being studying to get an English degree at a Massachusetts university, must have two years of foreign language study under one's belt.
So, I chose Spanish.
My entire Spanish vocabulary still consists of two sentences. The first ("Hello, I am a wide-mouth frog.") leaves people wondering about my sanity, and the second ("You are a good-looking pig.") does not enable me to make new friends anywhere, especially near the Mexican border.
My friend Hank was also in the same Spanish class. He would suggest that we meet at the university's language lab, being very solicitous with his invite: "You are an idiot when it comes to this language. You need practice. Meet me there, or you are dead."
Spoken like a true friend.
This particular laboratorio de lengua was located on the second floor of a concrete university building designed by Modernist architect Paul Rudolph, and managed by a guy named Stan.
I do not know if Stan spoke Spanish, but he had a comb-over that made Donald Trump look like a piker. And he ran that language lab with a steel fist, complete with hidden bald spot.
If one was to make efficient use of such a lab, one entered quietly, sat at a desk, picked up the nearest headset, placed said earphones over hearing sense organs, dialed a number on the very phone-like circular indicator that represented the tape one wanted to hear, and soon heard the lilting sounds of Spanish translating over the wires.
Nope. Not for me.
I dialed the number.
I dialed it again.
No way, Jose.
I dialed it a third time.
The silence was deafening.
Time to call in The Marines.
I raised my hand.
"Excuse me, Stan?" I inquired.
Stan and his Comb-o-vah, who were sitting at the front desk, snapped to attention.
"Yes?" they said.
"I dial the tape number, and hear nothing." I responded.
Stan leaped from his chair, and, accompanied by his hair, ran to the back room of the lab. For about fifteen minutes, one heard sounds as if he was picking up pots and pans and throwing them about the room. Soon he emerged.
"Try it again," he, and his hair (which, by this time, was really a mess) suggested.
I did. I dialed. Silence. I shook my head. No luck.
Again Stan disappeared to the back room. More clanging of metal was heard.
When no one was looking, Stan or Hank, I discovered that I had the wrong headset placed upon my ears. I was dialing at my desk, but was wearing the headset from the desk to the left from where I was sitting.
There is a saying, "Stupidity is not a crime. You are free to go."
"Stan, Stan," I called, in English. "It is working!"
Bueno, buddy, bueno!
Stan appeared from the back room, his coiffure a sight, but happy to have found a solution.
But you can't fool Hank.
"Usted es un idiota más allá de límites," he said.
I had to look it up.
ART: Carrying Water
Roberto de la Selve (Nicaraguan)