A woman knocked on the door one day that I recognized from next door. She, her husband and family were frequent quests at our neighbors’ social gatherings. She had her daughter of about seven years with her as an interpreter. The guys had told her that we had a fax and she wanted to make a transmission.
She gave me a phone number and I made several attempts but, each time, received a failed transmission message. “No funciona,” I said, more thinking out loud than speaking.
“¿Habla Espanol?” The woman asked.
“Poquito,” I replied, holding up my thumb and forefinger in a pinch shape to indicate a little bit.
I called the recipient of the fax. He checked his unit and we tried again. This time it went through.
I waited for the fax confirmation to print and then gave it to the woman with her original. She offered to pay for the fax but I politely declined the offer. Everyone was doing the gracias, de nada, adios routine when the woman turned back to me.
“¿Me quisiere que limpio a su casa?”
“¿Crees que mi casa está sucia?”
I was teasing her, as I often did with a lot people, but when I asked if she thought my house was dirty the poor woman almost melted with embarrassment. My wife didn’t understand the words but saw the look on the woman’s face and she was on me like an angry she-bear.
“What did you say to her?”
When I repeated the dialogue in English, she went right to the little girl and told her to explain to her mother that I was only teasing. My wife’s look to the woman crossed the language barrier with a thousand apologies. Meanwhile, I was the one melting but for the fear that I might need cast iron skivvies to protect myself from my wife’s retaliation on the emotionally wounded woman’s behalf.