April 01, 2010

conversation of the moment

{blogger sucked down my angle brackets and tried to interpret them as html ... so i'm re-writing and posting as new ... this conversation from a couple of days ago.}

i'm walking down el camino and an older white sedan pulls over with the passenger window open ... i'm going to be asked directions -- a very common circumstance for me (that, weirdly, started on the day i moved to england, although i'm not sure why) ... but that's okay, i'm almost always the right guy to ask.

it's an older white guy.  combed back hair, putty nose.  the silicon valley is essentially a rich-yet-ungroomed version of the united nations.  this guy will be something slav or slav-like.

"excuse me ... which way DMV?"


and this gives me a chance to speak my favorite form of english: communicative.  if i'm talking to someone that knows 100 words of english, i can talk to them about anything and make them understand it all.

i point up the street and make flashing signs with my hands. "traffic light ..." i make a motion with my right hand like i'm trying to reach around a pencil holder on a desk "turn right." i run through the instructions again with the hand signals for clarity. "traffic light. turn right."

he nods and has sharpness in his eyes. he gets it.

i continue. "but bad news..." i grimace and give a thumbs down, "... today? closed." and i bring my arms up crossed like an X.

his eyes widen. "closed?" and he waves his arms like an umpire signalling safe. beauteous. we speak the same language.

i adopt his gesture and nod, "closed."

he shrugs and asks, "when open?"

i shrug back and shake my head. "i don't know..." i go slow. "the state of california..." and i point at the ground ... i can see he's not getting it, so i start again ... "the state of california ..." and i wave my arms to indicate the whole world.

he nods, so i continue and rub my thumb and index finger together "...is bankrupt." i quit rubbing my fingers. he nods. he gets is. i go on, "sometimes, things close," and i make the umpire signal.

"when open?" he asks.

i shrug and run full speed without gesture, "who the hell knows." he laughs. everyone who speaks a little bit of street english is well-versed in the expression, 'who the hell knows.'

he traces a square in the air with his fingers. "maybe sign."

i nod and copy the universal symbol for sign in the air. "for sure sign. it's the government." i put my hands up to my mouth like a kid yelling in a playground and shout, "THEY TELL YOU THINGS ..." i put my hands down and shrug. "they're the government ... that's what they do."

he's laughing hard now. time to slay the beast -- i go in for the kill. "the government today? for you to understand?" i shake my head and point at the ground, "don't think 'america...'" i point at his chest and say, "think 'russia.'"

let him think. i'm pretty sure he'll get this. if i try to jump in again i'll spoil the timing.

tick tick tick.

and then he explodes with laughter. he repeats "don't think america.  think russia." he nods and gives me a thumbs up. "thank you."

he starts driving but pulls back over about 30 feet further down the road. i look to see if something's wrong, but there's not.

he's laughing so hard he can't see through his tears.