Friday, May 22, 2009

Giving Back to the Children

We were sitting at a café on the Plaza last night, when three high-school age girls approached, notebooks in hand. “Good night!” they said. “You are speaking English?”

“Um, I am now, yes.”

“You can do an interview?”

We said yes without demanding further explanation, guessing – correctly, we think – that it was some sort of English class homework assignment. One of the three pulls out a point-and-shoot digital camera with a video function. (It’s unclear if this is for transcription purposes of if it’s going to be played in class. Looking back, we’re hoping it’s the latter.) The other two pull out index cards and alternate asking questions. “What. Is. Your. Name?” “How. Old. Are. You?” “Where. Do. You. Come. From?” On it went, and our answers were generally shorter than their questions. Until, “Why. Do. You. Come. To. Mexico?”

    “Ah, well, that’s sort of complicated, mija, but the short answer would be ‘mid-life crisis.’ And, okay, I know what you’re thinking: ‘who has a mid-life crisis at 38,’ right? But check the actuarial tables, kid, and it’s all right there: life expectancy of a Caucasian male born in 1967 – 76.4 years! What does mid-life mean if not 'halfway through life'?”

We should probably mention here that it was 2-por-1 cervezas, and we’d been there for a while already.

    “So I’m working for this big name TV news outfit, you know? But then they bring in these new people to run the place – I mean, it’s an institution, really, but they go ahead and hand it over to this younger guy, total company man. Might as well have been wearing a gray flannel suit, you know? Not that the guy was without talent, that’s not what I’m saying, but he’s totally in corporate’s pocket, and the purge is coming, right? The purge always comes! It's C.B. fuckin' S! And so, guess who’s in the cross hairs.”

Camera Girl takes her left hand off the camera and uses it to support her right elbow. The three of them exchange glances.

    “So now I’m out of work and trying to figure out who’s gonna hire me, and then I realize, hel-lo! They just disqualified you from the rat race, and the first thing that comes to mind is how do you get yourself reinstated? This is your brain on drugs, right? So then I’m all, like, fuck it, hand me that fuckin’ atlas. So - boom! - fast-forward few few short years, and here I am, a teaching tool in a Mexican classroom. Ain’t life weird?”

The table falls silent for about three seconds, just long enough for me to draw the waiter's eye towards my empty glass. Then, without missing a beat, the first girl looks down at her index card.

“What. Places. Have. You. Visit. In. Mexico?"

3 comments:

Dan said...

Loved this entry.

I'll be looking for the video on YouTube -- the kids, if they are anything like their American counterparts, have surely uploaded it by now. My Spanish is rusty, so I may need some help with the proper search words. How do you say 'sad, drunk, raving, disillusioned American dropout' in Spanish?

Burro Hall said...

I usualy tell them to just call me Frank.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Was there something incorrect or inappropriate about your response? Sounds like you nailed it.

Tio Loco