Last night I waited on four girls visiting from Buenos Aires. The minute I walked up to the table they asked, in Spanish, if I spoke Spanish. This is typical in Beverly Hills and it’s a part of my job that I really like. The minute I said yes they rattled off their orders. When I went back to check on them, the lady eating the low-cal tortilla salad wanted to know if she could ask me a question.
“Que cosas tienes? Pues claro,” I said quoting a line from one of my favorite movies, Volver. The daughter says this when her mother asks if she’d like to hear her sing flamenco. Rough translation: “What’s the matter with you?! Of course!” I love quoting movies when the context is right because it fools natives into thinking I’m fluent. She gets all excited and goes full speed into her question, rolling her R’s and eating words. The only thing I catch is peligroso. That’s a word I’ll never forget—I learned it my sophomore year of college.
Hoping to coast through the winter semester, I signed up for one of those on-line courses that required us to meet only once a week in a classroom setting. I never did my homework, so every Friday I’d sit in class wondering what the professor was jabbering about until finally I’d drift into a daydream. I was staring out the window when Sra. Pineda called on me. She was holding up a picture of a guy playing golf and asked if it was “peligroso” or not. I had no clue what the hell that meant, but I figured I had a 50/50 chance of answering correctly.
“Ummmm,” I said as though I was majoring in geology. I felt my face turn red. “Yes…I mean, sí. Golf es pelly-gross-ohhhh.”
There were some chuckles and the professor responded, “Sure. Sometimes, I guess.” I had clearly answered incorrectly. After class, I walked straight home and looked up what it meant: dangerous. Dammit! No! Golf no es peligroso!
So it’s the only word I catch from this woman’s mile-a-minute speech.
“Wait. Wait. Wait,” I said cutting her off. “I’m not that good. Slow down, please.” She does and I’m able to figure out that she and the gals are going to the outlet mall for some midnight shopping and want to know if it’s dangerous there, especially late at night. I told them no, Camarillo no es peligroso. They were gracious but just to be sure, when I dropped off the credit card I pointed to the insert that explains customary tipping procedures in the U.S. and said, “If you have any questions on how to fill out your receipt, just read here. Pero, ya saben.”