So the other day I had the chance to help a former Spanish student of mine with a grammar question which was really nice, and also helped me to actually feel useful that day. Because it’s not often that you hear someone yell, “I need to know the difference between direct and indirect objects, STAT!” Or, “OMG, come quick-there’s a conjugation emergency!”
(And personally, I think the world is a lesser place for it.)
But on that day I finally had the chance to ride up on my Pony of Exceptional Grammar Knowledge and save the day.
I mean, it sounds really cool and all to be able to say that I am fluent in Spanish, but we Spanish speakers aren’t ever called on to help with the really interesting projects, or the really spectacular rescue missions.
That’s probably a good thing too, now that I think about it. Because our ability to help, say, someone clinging to the side of a cliff, trying desperately not to fall to their death would most likely look like this:
“OK, so, you need to be able to say, ‘Help-I am falling off a cliff!’ Well first, you need to learn how to conjugate the verb ‘to be’. AIIIIIIEEEEEE!” (And then that would be where the rescue team pushed us off the cliff, because frankly, we kind of deserved it.)
But, I digress.
So as a Spanish speaker, mostly I am just asked stuff like, “Hey-say something in Spanish”, or, “What does that mean in English?”
(Unless, of course, you happen upon a group of graduate students who work for approximately 2 hours a day, leaving the remaining 22 hours to argue with each other over which is the superior branch of study regarding the Spanish language: literature (!), or linguistics (yeah, right). Seriously-you do NOT want to get in the middle of that situation, because, HO, BABY, DO THE CLAWS COME OUT! GRR!)
However, there was one time when I actually felt the power of being bilingual. It happened a few years ago when I was called to jury duty (FOR THE FOURTH TIME IN FOUR YEARS, NOT THAT I AM BITTER OR ANYTHING.)
There was much too much waiting around aimlessly, of which we shall not speak. But eventually I was finally freed from the purgatory of the waiting room and assigned to a judge, at which time they brought the whole big group of us, the pool of potential jurors, into the courtroom. There were three defendants on trial, each with their own lawyer and, we soon found out, each with their own interpreter. Because the defendants spoke no English-only Spanish.
So that was kind of interesting for about five seconds, and then began The Questioning Of The Potential Jury Candidates. And I was located right smack in the middle of the pool. And it was Soooo. Very. Boring.
Because there was one prosecutor. And three defense attorneys. And they all got to ask us questions. And they all asked the Same. Exact. Questions, in the Same. Exact. Order, of the approximately five hundred and eighty-seven people before me in line.
AND, each and every one of those five hundred and eighty-seven people waited to be prompted for each and every one of the questions. Even though they knew what was coming.
OH. MY. GOD.
This was, unsurprisingly, the longest experience of my entire life. We’re talking, like, 40 days and 40 nights here. Or maybe more.
As a matter of fact, it’s entirely possible that this process is still going on, and that this life is just an hallucination that I’ve been dreaming up ever since, just to escape. If so, PLEASE do not wake me up.
S,o as the torture wore us down the candidate questioning continued, I could not help but notice that one of the defense attorneys was, not to put too fine a point on it, a flaming, idiotic moron. Seriously, the name of his practice needed to be, “Just Go Right Ahead And Send My Clients To Jail”.
Here’s an example of the crack investigative techniques he used for determining whether or not a potential juror would be an asset to the defense:
F.I.M.: “So, do you have any strong feelings about the police, either positive or negative?”
Potential Juror: “No.”
F.I.M.: “Well, now, let’s explore that for a moment.”
Judge (in a heavy, and extremely weary, Southern drawl): “Mr. [whatever-the-hell-his-name-was], how do you explore a no?”
Well, as anyone who’s been around me for more than thirty-seven seconds knows, my besetting, Deadly Sin is that of pride. So after listening to approximately eleventy billion hours of this, I drew myself up and decided that I was going to be The Most Amazing Answerer In The Entire History Of People Who Answered Things. So I had all of my answers lined up, rehearsed, edited, and pretty much ready for publication.
Well they finally, finally! got to me, and once the first lawyer asked me the first question, I was off and running. I just launched right into my prepared speech and didn’t stop until I’d said everything I had to say.
I refused to give the lawyer a chance to get a word in edgewise, because baby, somebody needed to speed this whole process up.
But that was not the remarkable part of my experience. What completely surprised me was the wave of stunned and awed whispering that literally swept across the courtroom when I revealed that I had a Master’s Degree in Spanish and ran my own Spanish tutoring business.
I’ve never experienced anything like that before-certainly not in response to anything I’ve ever said or done. People were whipped into a frenzy over the fact that I understand Spanish, as if it were some sort of long-hidden scandal that had unexpectedly come to light, and they were the first to hear the news.
I’m pretty sure that’s what disqualified me for that jury-hal-le-lu-jah!-probably because I could understand what was being said between the defendants and their interpreters, which, after my sudden rise to popularity, was really just the sprinkles on the icing on the cake.
So there you have it my friends-my 15 minutes of Spanish-speaking fame. Go with God, along with my deepest and sincerest wishes that, one day, you too discover a magical superpower that frees you from the heavy bonds of jury duty.