by piotr powers
i'm going to mexico, and nothing's going to stop me
|Tomorrow I am heading to Nebraska, en route to Del Rio, Texas (right on the Mexican border). Nebraska's not exactly 'on the way' per se, but I sort of have to meet up with the group I'm heading down there with. It's going to be exciting, I do believe: almost two weeks with a very good friend of the family's, the Mexican culture and all it's Spanish greatness, and of course, building large edifices in the name of the Christ.
At work, I couldn't think of the most polite way to tell all the 'latin employees' that I'd be heading to their fatherland; I didn't know if it'd arouse anger that I'd automatically assumed they were from Mexico or if they'd simply stare at me because they couldn't give a crap. I mean, the guy I stand next to was wearing a cap with the word "Mexico" emblazoned across the front and back--I still wanted to be wary. And he's such a nice guy. All of them are. I love them Mexicanos. And you know how the Mexican culture always seems to be famed for its closeness and togetherness as a family? In the kitchen at Parkway Grill and Bar, the five mexican men have united, all taking their roles. I work with the father of them all, and I only assume this because his discolored skin and older age automatically gain him two natural sentiments: respect and pity. The three cooks are the brothers, and the youngest one's a waiter and always jests with them all--he's such a spry fellow.
But I can't just talk about work and not talk about my expertise in the back of the restaurant--oh, it's glory, is what it is.
I wash dishes. Wait, no. I put away and stack the clean dishes that emerge from the giant metal cleaning box. Father Mexico cleans the dishes; we are an amazing team. At one point, I considered that this job "sucked" or "was not using any of my talents" or "was a complete waste of time" until I started getting into my groove, and realized I was the king of the world. Allow me to explain.
My work area consists of a giant metal table, with enough room for you (or me) to assume the fetal position on. To my immediate right is the dishwasher box, and armed with a soggy white rag, I stack hot dishes, cups, mugs, pots, pans. Not 'hot' like "This warms my hand, my heart, and my soul," but hot like I've discovered every variation on the F word--most of them just emerging as "Fuh" or "Fuggalugga" or sometimes the occasional "Fudgepack" when I'm feling extra articulate. I also talk to the magmalicious plates, questioning them and their motives: "Oh, REALLY?" is one of my favorites, as I chuck the plate aside. But, I've come up with ways to cope with the scalding hotness, such as the Diversionary Tactic. It works well, especially since I have a penis and can generally only manage one or two thoughts simultaneously at any given time. My diversion? Singing crappy songs that I know all the words too, or the entire piece, if it's classical. And you know what? I'm actually finally thankful I have some of Tchaikovsky's symphonies memorized from start to finish--praise to the PT.
During one of my singing episodes, I noticed that I was starting to hum along with the ominous purr coming from the dishwashing machine at my right. It was humming an F; and the only reason I know that is because it's exactly one whole step lower than the lowest note I can bellow out. My mind raced with excitement as I recalled one of my favorite pieces to play/sing/listen to: Second Suite in freaking F by Gustav Holst. Oh, I sang that puppy from start to finish at least 4 times total, and not once did I notice that these omelette pans were searing my fingerprints completely off. And it wasn't perceived as weird either, I could tell Father Mexico was singing as well.
Unfortunately, working there wasn't exactly, like, memorable. Okay, I know Spanish, but there is definitely a difference between that and Mexican. I'm sorry, Mexican's a language; dispute it if you will, but I holdfast to that. Eldest Brother Mexico approached me and held out his two hands, thumbs together, but farthest apart from the index fingers, making a peculiar gap of space that I remember from probably 4th or 5th grade. He stopped my stacking process and held out his hands as described:
I looked at his face and then at his hands. I made "the face" and replied with an appeasing chuckle: "Ha. Si, yo se 'panocha'." He laughed, surprised, and I assumed he told his Brothers because they all looked over at me and guffawed. He was asking if I knew what the word "panocha" meant; and I replied, "Yes, I know what that means." 'Panocha,' simply but tastefully put, the vagina. Ya know, somehow that word always seems to come up when I meet a group of spanish fellows; the irony of it all. As if they're on this great hunt, and I could be the gatekeeper to lead them in the direction of women's genitalia. And still, I say, the irony of it all.
They were surprised that I knew as much Spanish as I did, so I think it quieted down their remarks a scoach. I mean, I obviously had no idea what they were saying unless they were looking at me. Rapid Mexican-Spanish doesn't work with me. As a peace offering, or something, the Middle Brother made me a breakfast of pancakes and Father fetched the strawberries and whipped cream. I didn't know how to say "syrup," but "fresa y crema" tastes scrumptious as well. After a few bites, I jumped right back into work and knew I'd eat it later, but not even three minutes after I abandoned my plate, Middle Brother closed in on me and started talking. (You have to understand, not only do they sometimes frighten me with their man-ish size, but spanish-speaking confrontations are still something I have to get used to.) In my head, I repeatedly say, "Oh crap oh crap oh crap I don't know what you're saying oh crap" until he finishes his sentence. I think I have it mastered too. Judging by the way he ends his sentence, if it's a question-sounding end and with a chuckle, I accommodatingly laugh and say "Si! haha, si." If it's a statement and he's just sort of passing by me on the way to something, I can either feign ignorance like "I didn't know he was even talking to me" or straight-up smile. UNFORTUNATELY, when the sentence ends and requires a full-on, thought out response, I can usually depend on myself to:
(1) say, "Aw, shizlit, I have no freaking idea what you just said. Que?"
(2) leave my mouth agape until he realizes I'm clueless
(3) actually let a natural response slide off my tongue
Only when the Heavens part and Jesus Christ himself reaches through the clouds and smacks me on the back of the head do I ever respond naturally. It's coming though, I'll get it eventually.
This time, Middle Brother gave the "I'm offended" tone and pointed to my plate of uneaten pancakes, obviously wondering why I hadn't eaten them. He then asked if I didn't like them and started getting in my face, but I jumped his sentence and enthusiastically responded, "Me gusta mucho! Si, tengo trabajo y estoy esperando hasta que lo termino." Whoa. I had no idea how that happened either. (non-Spanish-knowers: "I like it a lot! Yeah, I have work and I'm just waiting until I finish it.") Grammar goes out the window in speech, seriously, it's the only way.
I returned to separating the elliptical dishes from the round ones, when the dishwasher opened and revealed another crate of schteaming plateware. A giant gust of moist steam billowed out just as I was leaning over to grab it, and of course, it completely smathered my glasses in moisture. With sarcasm in my movement, I yanked the crate over and tried to blow away the wetness on my glasses so I could, you know, see. You'd think that steam would get annoying after a while, but it's really just like getting a frequent hot mist facial. I was half tempted to ask Young Brother (who cuts the cucumbers) for a couple slices, as I effeminately fan my face with two limp wrists and ask him to speed it up a little.
Working at the kitchen sucks, yeah, but I love the suckiness. I thrill myself with the random fun I can find in sorting silverware or constructing new, creative swear words. And yeah, the little slice of Mexico in there may be interculturally stimulating, but they wield knives. And they make my food. I wouldn't even consider a revolt. I mean, what am I gonna do, threaten to forcefully press this tea saucer against the exposed part of their neck? I'm not saying I didn't think about it, but I'd choose steam facials over angered Mexicans any day.