204) The Spanish Lesson

January 10, 2008

El Milagro: I’m settling into my chair and getting my supplies all in order as Rosie the Tech is bustling around… the place is hopping today. As Rosie is adjusting my machine, she calls out to one of the nurses, “Ms. ‘X’ won’t be here today” as they are wondering about a certain chair’s blankness. I wonder if it is a ‘bad’ patient who is skipping out of treatment and Rosie sees my expression and leans over and whispers, “diarrhea”. I go, “Ycch. I don’t need to hear that. She called in ‘sick’ huh?” …and she replies, “that’s exactly what she said.

Kim the Nurse comes to listen to me and Rosie and I are telling her to speak Vietnamese to her son. We have been discussing how these second generation folks are not served by melting too much into the dominant culture, and how they should keep their language and customs intact through the generations. Kim has a gringo husband so they don’t speak Vietnamese in the family, but she says her sisters are married to Vietnamese guys and their kids don’t speak it either, but at least they understand some. We talk on and Kim doesn’t feel my ankles… which is part of the nurse procedures. I obnoxiously mention that and that starts a conversation about how to say “ankles” in Spanish. Rosie doesn’t know (although I consider her to be bilingual). There are 'levels' of bilingualism, I have found… and even people who are BILINGUAL don’t know all the words. She says, “Ask Gabriel the Tech” and we chuckle 'cause he doesn’t know any Spanish even though he is Hispanic. He is one of the victims of post-generational meltational drift… having grown up in a Hispanic family where he learned no Spanish. We ask Oscar the Dialyzer Cleaner Guy. ¿Como se llama ‘ankles’ en español?” Oscar (another fluent Spanish speaker) replies, “¿Los ankles?” Finally the young Hispanic patient guy who is part of my shift family and whose name I never have gotten yet (Rodolfo), pipes up: “Tovillos” and then it takes several minutes and a written scrap of paper to find out it isn’t tobias or tobios, but 'tovillos'. En español, los ankles se llama, los tovillos. I have los tovillos flacos, as usual. And so we have had our Spanish lesson for today. (If Luis is reading this, I hope it gets a chuckle)

So, I settle into sucking some of my leftover Christmas hard candies, listening to ATC on NPR, and dozing until the news. Then I channel surf, stopping to listen briefly to Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour, part of a movie, and finally drift off to snooze until a new Gray’s Anatomy comes on. This new episode finds Dr. McDreamy breaking up with Meredith again after she hears he kissed the hot new nurse, Rose. So, it’s the same old thing for these folks who are so bent on immediate gratification that they don’t ever consider the longer term results of their behavior. This show is full of people who talk and act without thinking and they aren’t very happy with the results, from my perspective. And we in Boob-tube Land love to watch them make these thoughtless choices… I guess because they probably make our own seem so much better. By the end of the show I am holding my poke holes and ready to get out into the brisk night air and drive home to my ‘normal’ South Austin homestead.

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