I am bilingual by matter of birthright. When I started in kindergarden I only spoke Spanish. Knowing two languages has its advantages. I’m sure you, dear reader, agree. But what does one do when someone needs help and doesn’t speak your language? This happened to me while driving the bus in Los Angeles and then also here in Austin.
It was Saturday morning in the spring time and I was driving the 480 route in L.A. I was at the layover point on the west side of downtown, just pass the financial district. An elderly couple, who, as it turned out, were visiting from another country. They became lost and came up to my bus for help. The man started talking to me and all I could think was, “Oh, no. They only speak Italian. The man continued talking to me, friendly, but I could not understand. And then the lady started talking to me. I remember thinking how beautiful their language sounded. Like music, it had melody and rhythm. Suddenly I realized I knew what they were asking me. I also realized I had put up a wall as soon as I heard the foreign language. A lot of the words were so close to Spanish that I could make out what they were saying. I thought to myself, “I bet if I speak Spanish they will understand me.” I said something in Spanish and sure enough it worked. They started talking faster and I paid close attention. I spoke Spanish to them and they spoke Italian to me and we were able to have a conversation. I was able to help them find the place they were looking for.
Believe it or don’t, three years later that exact event happened again, like a rerun on t.v. Again it was Saturday morning in spring time. Only this time I’m driving the number 1 route in Austin. I stop to pick-up passengers on the drag in front of the co-op. Again an elderly couple come up to me for directions. And they only speak Italian. But this time I just go right into it. I talk to them in Spanish and I see their worried look disappear like magic. “It’s a small world after all.”