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My bad!

7 August 2006

I’m still the new guy in town, and don’t get a lot of personal calls. And, as the new guy in town, my phone number hasn’t shown up on the National ‘Do Not Call’ Registry. Luckily, I DO have Caller ID on my telephone. When one of the six or seven nightly calls comes in from an “800” number or “out of area” number or “unknown caller” number, of course, I answer — in my best New York/midwest/southern/Texas accented Spanish: ¿BUENO?

One of two types of person — normally — will be on the other end. A slightly confused housewife trying to make ends meet on excrable pay somewhere like Cedar Falls, Iowa… or a decently paid, but terribly mis-employed unsatisfied in his career young fellow from Bangalore or Mumbai (unlike the very satisfied, and always graceful writer on everything from postcards to Turkish seaports to the recent tragedy in Mumbai, and hilariouly on buying — or not buying — a cell phone… sailor,writer and racontuer, Anuj Velu ).

The joke in Mexico (and alas throughout the world) is “Tres idiomas – trilingües. Dos idiomas – bilingüe. Una idioma – ¡GRINGO! It’s not the housewife in Iowa’s fault that she received a poor education… or that I have no interest in buying… well, anything. And, I suspect the fellow from Mumbai or Bangalore is a few credits short of his PhD in Electrical Engineering, and speaks two or three languages besides English… but, that the languages he knows are Bengali or Hindi or… certainly not Spanish.

Even though I’ve only been here a few weeks, that trick is getting old. Maybe U.S. education is getting better, or more immigrants are getting hired by U.S. call centers. OR… and this scares me… maybe the job I did recruiting call center operators in Mexico is paying off for the client. At any rate, I’ve gotten two where the operator immediately switched to the Spanish version of the sales pitch … without, I assume, batting an eyelash.

Maybe it’s time to go back to studying Nahuatl. Last time I tried (with a “Teach Yourself Cassette and Program”, I never got beyond Chapter One… though the parrot I had at the time was greatly amused by the sound of the language (but she never learned it either).

I gave up when I figured out that to say “my name is Richard Grabman”, I had to wrap my tonuge around Nehuatl notoka Kualli-yollatitli Tiquinquitzquizqueh.

Maybe I’ll stick to Hello (“Niltze“). I can say “Eat me” (¡NECH-CUAZ!), but I’m always afraid I’ll run into some unreconstructed Aztec who’d take me literally…

Eat your heart out, telemarketers!

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