Thursday, February 21, 2008

¿Y el houka habla frances, tambien?

This is one of my favorite stories of all time, and I'd forgotten about it. Lucky for me, I remembered it the other day, so instead of complaining about how miserable my day was, or how much my sprained ankle hurts, or how much work I have sitting on my desk, I'm going to tell you this story. It's awesome. It's the kind of story where I often start laughing before I get to the funny part when I'm telling it.  I hope it's as funny when I write it, given that I can't do the gestures and facial expressions that normally punctuate the narrative.  (Note: it may be helpful to understand how to say "you speak well" in both french and spanish in order to get the punchline.)

Cast your minds way back in time to four or five years ago, when I was a glamorous and highly paid middle school Spanish teacher living in Durham, NC. My then-boyfriend and I were hanging out in Chapel Hill (that bastion of liberals, that den of iniquity!) and we stopped into a head shop. A head shop, for those who aren't up on things like this, is where certain folk go to buy glass pipes (for decorative purposes only, of course) and other items of counter-culture consumerism. Boy wanted to check out some t-shirts, so in we went, and it was the greatest thing ever, cause guess who I met on the inside: The Archetypal Head Shop Employee. We'll just call him Dude.

Dude was everything young stoners hope to become one day. In his late 20s, shaggy blond hair in his eyes, scruffy facial hair, pale and slightly pasty from spending too many late nights eating Pokey Sticks and pizza, and perpetually smiling in a blissed out sort of way. He looked like a Buddha as he sat behind the counter polishing a houka pipe. He polished most assiduously. I looked around the shop, checked out the merchandise, and found something I liked. A belt buckle that had a cool design on the front, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't a logo for something I didn't want to advertise, so I approached Dude.

"Hey, dude, how's it going?" He looked up and smiled, still polishing his houka. "Heeyyyy, what's up, man," he said, in archetypal stoner accents. We chatted for a while about houkas and the weather and other sundry items. He still polished the same spot on his houka. It was more a zen thing than a productive activity, I think. Anyway, I asked him about the belt buckle, he didn't think it represented anything, so I moved into negotiation phase.

"Wow, it's so nice," I said, "but I'm a teacher, and I make no money, so couldn't you cut me a sweet deal? Like 10% off?"

A delighted smile lit his face. "Oh, duuuuude, you're a teeeeeeacher? That's aaaaaawesome! What do you teach?"

I smile back, thinking how sweet this daffy dude was. "I teach Spanish," I told him.  

ANOTHER delighted smile!

"Duuuuuuuuuude, that's aaaaawwwesome! Languages are, like, so unbelievable. Like, the way you can just, like, communicate with other countries' peeps! Wow."

"Yeah, cool!" I enthused.

"Yeah," he agreed. "I, like, totally double majored in Spanish and French in college!"

(Here comes the punchline, for those of you who were wondering where this meandering tale was going.)

"A double major?" I asked, and then it occurred to me that maybe I'd underestimated this guy. I mean, he was clearly fluent in two languages.  Maybe I could speak Spanish with the Dude, and he'd like that!  

"Entonces, hablas muy bien, no?"

His forehead furrowed up, and all the sudden my marvelously placid Dude looked frustrated and confused.

"Oh, man," he sighed. "I guess my French is all rusty. But wait, wait!  Try my Spanish, instead!"


Alison said...

beautiful. just beautiful. i wanted to come up with a witty response, but really i think Dude said all that needed to be said.

Cheasty said...

thanks, alison -- it was one of the more sublime comedic moments of my life.

carymc said...

The Dude abides. And he reminds us that ignorance is, indeed, bliss.

Epaminondas said...

¡Muy bueno! (pardon my French)