After MQTC I flew home to the CLT airport and of course had to check the bag with the Bat-O-Meter in it. The checked baggage delivery at CLT remains the slowest of the airports that I frequent so wandered around the carousel aimlessly. After about my third circuit an attractive young woman approached and began speaking in Spanish.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t understand you.”
“Bags for Houston come out here?” Her accent was so think it took a few seconds for me to parse “Houston.”
“Which concourse did you arrive on?”
My accent clearly gave her trouble as well. “Concourse? What is concourse?” Then she said something very fast in Spanish and looked at me expectantly.
“I’m sorry,” I said shrugging. “English?”
“You sure you no habla?” she asked, clearly puzzled.
“Sorry no,” I said.
“But you look…” here she trailed off.
“I get that a lot,” I told her.
Then I took her to the arrivals board and scanned the listings for Houston. Three flights, with baggage delivery on carousels A, C and D. We were on D. I got her to show me her ticket and directed her to the correct carousel which was not D.
“Gracias,” she said flashing a friendly smile. Then in a low conspiratorial tone she leaned in and asked “you sure you no habla?”
“No, really! Honest!” This seems to me like the kind of thing I would be an authority on. Perhaps even the authority on. Why didn’t she believe me?
“Well, okay,” she said a bit reluctantly. “Muchos gracias.” Clearly disappointed, she turned and walked away.
So here’s the thing, I know what I look like. I’ve made jokes before about how in Texas I’m Mexican, in Florida I’m Cuban or Dominican, in NYC I’m Puerto Rican, etc. But nobody, and I mean NOBODY, has ever had so much trouble believing I don’t speak Spanish. Which is fine as just another weird oddity. My life is full of those, as regular readers well know.
Except the thought occurred to me that maybe she didn’t just think I look like I should speak Spanish. Maybe she thought I look like a specific person that she knows for a fact speaks Spanish. She was that insistent. But who would she think she knows and yet not recognize with confidence? Someone she might not have seen for a while? Like someone in the Witness Protection Program maybe?
That little thought virus exploded in my head like a paranoia bomb. Trying to unthink it is like trying to get the toothpaste back in the tube. If you want to hide, normally you make yourself look like someone you are not. But how do you hide when people mistaking you for someone you are not is the actual problem? Try to look even more like yourself? Where do you even start?
There goes my sleep for the next week or so. Thanks for nothing, random airport woman. Do you know how hard it is to drive on the Interstate while scanning four lanes of traffic in the rear view looking for someone tailing you? I hope your bag was routed to Antartica.
Which brings me to the reason why I am posting tonight. What’s the best downloadable Spanish Language course out there? I’m in a bit of a hurry.