While my dad remembered a lot
more German than I would have imagined, I remembered a lot more Spanish
than I thought I knew from my classes. Let me back up a bit first
though and set up to what is essentially the same punchline.
I lived on campus when I was an undergrad,
so with it being a large school, I used to end up walking lots of my girl
friends (not necessarily girlfriends) back to their dorm once it was dark.
Pretty late one night my friend Erin decided to head home from my place.
I walked with her, but we were talking about serious stuff at the time.
She was "in love" (so she claimed) with a mutual friend of ours who was
definitely taken, even if it happened to be a dysfunctional relationship
he was in. We ended up stopping in front of the student union midway
in our journey across campus, and we hung out on the benches out front
to talk a while longer.
As we're sitting there, we see this guy
walk up dressed completely in a full suit like he's going to a meeting.
He was probably in his late thirties or early forties, and he couldn't
have looked more out of place on a college campus in the middle of the
night. By this time it was about 4am, and there was no one else on
the street. He walked up and asked if either of us spoke Spanish.
I had already had a couple years' worth in high school then another year
in college, though that was already a year ago. I was never very
good to begin with and was way out of practice now.
Not really, I told him. Actually,
I think I said something like, "Muy pocito." He looked sort of disappointed
and walked a little further on where he continued to loiter in front of
the union looking sort of confused. He made it clear that he didn't
speak any English at all.
My friend and I continued to talk for a
bit, but I felt sorry for the guy, so I called him back over. I don't
think I had ever spoken Spanish outside of a classroom before then, so
I was anything but fluent. However, I asked him who or what he was
He gave me a name, so I asked him was that
a street? No, he said, it was a professor he was looking for.
What did the professor teach, I asked.
The guy said he was an economics professor. I told him I was a biology
major, so I hadn't had any of those classes.
The entire conversation was in Spanish,
and the whole time I'm speaking, Erin is looking at me wide-eyed like,
"You know Spanish?!"
She wasn't the only one amazed. The
whole time I was speaking, I was thinking the exact same thing.