I work with a diverse group of people at my new job, which is a good thing.
But I have recently found myself in the break room with a group of people that I cannot understand. Whether they speak Spanish, Chinese, or some Russian dialect, they always seem to congregate around me and speak with each other in their native tongue.
Now, maybe I am paranoid, but whenever I am just sitting there, innocently eating my sandwich, I can’t help but think that they are talking about me. Whether they are criticizing my personality, my looks, or the way I eat my sandwich, one thing is certain: they are speaking in another language, not because it is more comfortable for them, but so that they can encode their shit-talking from me.
One of the most interesting parts about being around these conversations is the English words that sometimes slip out. I am not sure if the words are untranslatable or if the words come out accidentally, but the English words actually make me feel even more suspicious. In my paranoia, I see it as a tactic used by my foreign-speaking friends, much like the government taking a black marker to confidential papers and only leaving a few innocuous words to leave the reader void of any actual information, and thus completely baffled.
And the words are always so random:
Idag är en sådan långsam dag. Dessa billiga asshole är knappt ger mig några pengar.
Estoy tan cansada hoy, porque fui a la cafetería para que mi taza de café, pero tardó tanto tiempo en realidad me dan mi bebida que me dieron una jelly donut.
The English words that slip out are so random that I usually just sit there and try to formulate the conversation around those words. This is a dangerous game for me to play, because it inevitably comes back to me who they are talking about as they call me a fat elephant of an asshole who loves to eat jelly donuts.
While I realize that they are probably not talking about me, it is still somewhat awkward. And it reminds me of a time at my last job, in which I took matters into my own hands.
I was sitting in the cafeteria with Jose (one of my bosses) and Selena (another dealer). The three of us were complaining about certain players. As we so often did, we discussed how cheap they were, how rude they were, or how much they smelled. And as such conversations do, the conversation ended with a collective sigh and we resumed eating our food.
Less than a minute later, Jose said something to Selena in Spanish and she laughed. Then she responded with something in Spanish and he laughed.
This was the beginning of their long-lasting, completely Spanish-speaking conversation. My friend would’ve been laughing at me if he saw me in this situation. He’s been on at me for ages to get some Spanish lessons so I wouldn’t be sitting in awkward silences like this. Apparently, somewhere like UKLP offer Spanish lessons in Leeds, and he wanted to go to a similar place in our area, so he could listen in on conversations. But I kept turning him down, so I sat in silence for a while, pretending to be doing something important on my phone.
But then I realized that there is no reason that I should be left out, feeling awkward and offended.
An attractive girl walked by our table. The girl had a pronounced posterior*, a feature which Jose and Selena took notice.
*A big ass†
†The good kind.
Now, back in high school, Spanish was one of the only subjects in which I struggled. But one of the key phrases that I distinctly remember was “¿Cómo se dice ________ en español?” This translates to, “How do you say [insert English word] in Spanish?” This was a question that I frequently asked the teacher, as I admittedly knew how to say nothing in Spanish.
Jose and Selena’s eyes lingered on the girl who walked by, and no language barrier could hinder me from deducing that their conversation had advanced to the topic of the girl and her most distinguished feature.
That is when I entered the conversation.
“¿Cómo se dice “ba-donka-donk” en español?” I asked.
And I asked the question with attempted inflection in my voice, as if to ask, “Did you see the size of her ass?”
I either completely failed in my translation as well as my attempt at a joke or I completely nailed it. Because they kinda laughed at me and gave me a funny look.
Essentially, one of four things happened:
- I nailed the joke with perfect timing and in perfect Spanish.
- I failed the joke with improper Spanish as well as non-transferable inflection. To them, it might have sounded like, “How DOES one verbalize “ba-donka-donk” Spanishly?”
- They may have never heard the term “ba-donka-donk,” in which case I sound like the biggest idiot in the world.
- I nailed the phrase so perfectly that they didn’t take it as a joke, but rather as a malicious assertion of my presence. In other words, I was essentially announcing the fact that I speak fluent Spanish and understood everything they were just talking about.
It ended up being a combination of all four. Not only did Jose say “Sorry, Youngman,” but he also answered my question: “The only word that can describe that ass is ‘Wow!'”
I felt slightly bad after that.
Of course my coworkers were not talking about me. It is a pretty brazen tactic to talk shit on someone when he or she is sitting at the same table, even if it is in a different language.
But either way, I still feel left out sometimes.
And if I ever hear one of them slip in a word like “supposibly” while they are speaking in a different language, I will know that they have read my blog and are messing with me.
Because that is not a word. In any language.