The past few days, I’ve been feeling pretty good about my Spanish. I had drinks out several times this weekend, I ordered food with no problem (I didn’t necessarily get exactly what I wanted, but it was tasty anyway), I had a few fairly substantial conversations with taxi drivers, and I even did some shopping. Hell, I even inquired about a hotel in Iguazu over email in Spanish, and understood the response (mostly, I hope).
I’d been feeling pretty proud—until this evening. This week my Spanish classes are in the afternoon (from 1:30-5:30), which is a nice break from waking up at 7:00 the past few weeks. I don’t know if the new schedule has thrown me off, or if drinking wine every night if catching up with me, but after class I felt like a slug, and couldn’t wait to curl up in my apartment and relax. But, dinner is important, and all my cabinets currently hold is a bottle of vinegar, some crackers and, in the refrigerator, some yogurt (or “Yogs,” as it’s unfortunately branded here). So, I decided to get takeout from the Italian place a block away.
With this confidence I’ve been feeling in my language skills comes a certain relaxation about interactions (which is nice, because feeling nauseous every time I purchased a bottle of water was getting old). So, I no longer feel the need to rehearse every request before my arrival in, say, the supermarket or the drugstore. Today, I didn’t even bring my dictionary with me. This sort of arrogance will, inevitably, screw you.
I walked into this restaurant, Nunez, and when the waitress looked at me I realized I had no idea how to say “takeout.” I quickly found that this was the least patient waitress in the history of the world. She hated me—despised me, really. And the disgust on her face made me hate myself. The translated conversation follows:
Me: Hi. Umm, yeah, hi. Can I . . . I want to . . . I’m sorry, I don’t know the word, but I want to . . .
Angry Waitress: <impatient gibberish>
Me: I don’t think so. I, well, I want to have some food, but not have the food here.
Angry Waitress: <angry gibberish>
Me: I want to arrive in my house with it—with the food? I want to eat the food in my house. You understand? I not eat . . . eat no here, but-
Angry Waitress: Si <leading into gibberish, leading to something about 8:00>
Me: 8? Okay! <no idea what I was agreeing to>
Angry Waitress: Where do you live?
Me: Close! I live in the apartment that is close to this place, to this restaurant. <I’m thinking now that she’s going to tell me to come back, and I’ve never wanted to leave anywhere so badly, so that’s working for me>
Angry Waitress: <frustrated gibberish, including comment to coworker who laughs>
Me: Yes, I know. I know and I’m sorry. My Spanish is terrible, very bad, but I’m trying here.
Angry Waitress: Again, where do you live?
Me: <in English> Oh, like to deliver it? I mean, oh shit. <back to Spanish> I live at Lavalle <painfully slow calculation of my street number, which is in the 2,000s> Dos mil, eh eh, umm, dos mil ciento y, umm, umm, sesenta y y y y cinco!
Angry Waitress: <silence>
Angry Waitress: <hands the scrap of paper she wrote my order on to her boss and I pay>
I am so, so hungry, and my food hasn’t come yet, and I suspect it’s not going to, if I’m being totally honest. That’s where cocky gets you. Tomorrow, I’m bringing my dictionary.
Update: An hour and forty-five minutes later, furious with hunger, I walked back to Nunez. I didn’t understand the explanation, but I was told my food would be delivered shortly. I said, “I’ll wait,” and so I did. For another half hour. Luckily, when I finally got it home, my caprese calzone was as big as my first apartment, and actually worth the wait.