Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Best Spanish Words

I feel like I should tell you the outcome of an earlier post entitled Lo siento. I followed through on the offering of an apology. And I'm glad I did it.

My wife helped me cobble together a few words of Spanish that I hoped, along with a forlorn look, would convey to some of our subcontractors my heartfelt regrets for blowing my cool last week.

I had been going to the house once or twice a day to check on progress, usually early in the morning on on my lunch break. But after my blow up I didn't go to the new house for two full days while the workers were there because I dreaded seeing those guys. I felt like a third grader on the school bus taking home an "F" on a spelling test. When finally I could put it off no longer, I went to the house and sought them out one by one.

My tongue tangled as I offered the Spanish apology, and my hands were hot with shame as I offered it out for a handshake. All three of the men shook my hand and smiled. One said, "De nada."

I found the last one quietly sanding the base board on the stair well. After my "speech" he said in broken English something to the effect of, "No problem, it happen to all person."

Latching on to his response, I tried to explain that I was tired, I was stressed, and so forth. He smiled and nodded like he understood, but he didn't. It was all lost in translation, but not from English to Spanish. It was lost in the translation from one economic strata to another. It was lost in the translation from my stress about a the color of my floor to his stress about making ends meet. It was lost in translation because there was no real reason for me to behave like a horse's ass.

I knew it was lost in translation so I gave up, and went back to the phrase I'd learned. Lo siento. I am to blame. Mea culpa.

He shrugged and went back to what he knew. "De nada." His eyes and slight smile told me that he got the message, so I quit.

The taste of grace and regret mixed in my mouth on the way home, oddly enough like new paint and the dust of wood being sanded. The words "de nada" are all at once bitter and sweet and they are the best Spanish words I know.


susan the rabid deacon said...

not only does it happen to all person, but it grows the hearts and humility of all person too.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing that embarassing behavior....i am familar with meltdowns like that...as is the coach at ok state and san diego padres outfielder milton bradley. The difference is they don't admit it and don't learn from it....nor apologize.
i think it might be a more intense reaction when it is something done to our house. our dwelling is a very personal space and when someone messes it up, then our reaction can be surprisingly intense. marvin