Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Wrong Number

I understand a fury in your words, but not your words. --Shakespeare, Othello

My home phone number used to belong to a man of Hispanic descent. His name is Luis, I think, based on the messages left on my answering machine. Apparently, he owes people money, because it is always banks or businesses calling. You'd think that the English-speaking, squeaky, white-girl voice on the machine would prevent them from repeat calls. Sadly, this is not the case. But I have grown used to the "Habla Espanol" representative from Bank of America. I have not yet fully understood the personal phone calls, though. You'd think he'd keep his friends and family up-to-date on his phone number.

One day, I came home from work and checked my messages. One was from a Spanish-speaking woman who sounded somewhat older. Perhaps it was Luis' mother? I couldn't understand the message, and was not about to make a long-distance courtesy phone call to California. I began to decompress from a long day when the phone rang. It was who I assume must have been Senora Luis, for lack of a better name. Now, I have a few rudimentary Spanish phrases under my belt, but it still escapes me why she would begin a phone conversation thusly:

"Bueno? Luis?"

Last time I checked, hola would have been a more appropriate greeting, but whatever.

"I'm sorry, you have the wrong number!" I said. A bunch of Spanish words followed. Since I didn't know how to respond, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I hung up.

Ok, now repeat what I just said about three times. This conversation was never going to die. I was living a real-life Lost in Translation/Groundhog Day. Bill Murray would have been impressed. I would be having this identical conversation until about midnight EST if I didn't do something. So I dusted off my limited Spanish vocabulary and began to fight back. With words I barely understood. The phone rang again.


"Bueno? Blah-nito la blahblah Luis espanola habla habla..."

"Senora? Hola. Lo ciento, no Luis acqi. Lo ciento. Buenos noches!"

Quite impressed with myself at roughly communicating the message I desired--and politely, no less!--I thought that would be the last of Senora. But it wasn't. She called again. Each time, beginning with "Bueno?" I cannot think of a single reason, at least in Gringo-land, why anyone would start a conversation with "Good?"

So this time, I simply bombarded her with what must have seemed a cocophony of broken Spanish: "Hola, Senora. Lo ciento, Luis es no acqi. No amigos acqui. No amigos a mi casa. Lo ciento. Por favor, no mas. No mas telephono, si? No mas."

She replied, "Ohhhhh.....sorry." And hung up.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Living fairly close to Mexico and having endured several years of high school and college Spanish and having bilingual friends, bueno is a normal way of answering the phone. I don't know why. Other than your Spanish spelling skills, you did a great job of communicating to her...and I'm sure she couldn't hear the spelling over the phone (ha ha ha)