I know Chicago is pretty far from Europe, not only distance-wise but culturally as well, though, as a Spaniard (and therefore European myself), living one year in the US left a wide number of anecdotes in my diary. Anecdotes that I am willing to share with you all if you have few spare minutes to read. But please, don’t judge, I was young and innocent. Well, not that young, and certainly not that innocent but well… Hope you enjoy this first anecdote. I’ll try to keep them coming. Let me introduce myself: I am from Madrid and I studied International Relations and Translation and Interpreting, and as part of my program, we all had to study our second year of university abroad, in an English speaking country, and that’s how I ended up in the “land of opportunities”.
One of my best and most famous anecdotes is my first encounter with the American police. One of my Spanish friends was visiting from Austin but, as she was under 21, she couldn’t get in the club we normally went to, so I asked my American friend to let me use her car real quick to go to the liquor store, get few beers and go drink in the dorm. I got in the car with my two Spanish friends, took off my heels because I’ve never been able to drive wearing heels, and got my friend to guide me as I was not wearing my glasses either (who goes out with glasses, right?). We made it safely to the liquor store, believe it or not, got the beers and we were on our way back when I turned to the right and accidentally jumped a bit on the sidewalk cause it was dark, and my myopia is a bitch.
Suddenly, I see some very bright lights behind me. I thought it was not for me so I kept driving. Then I hear the siren. I’m sure it’s for someone else. Keep driving. And then I hear a deep and strong voice through a megaphone saying: “Please, m’am stop the car right now.” I looked around me. No other car on the road. So my heart almost jumped out of my chest and I stopped. It was my sixth week in the US so I had no idea how the regulation worked. A very serious and huge policeman comes by my window, tells me to roll it down but the window is broken so I try to open the door and the police suddenly reaches for his gun and yells me to stay inside the car. I panic, of course, and almost shit my pants (well, my dress).
He asked me if I knew why I was being pulled over, but due to my almost panic attack, my brain was totally off, and the only brain cells working were all 100% Spanish. I had lost 90% of my ability to speak any other language. I mumbled something about a sidewalk and sounded drunk. I had not taken even a sip of beer but the situation was pretty scary. I could picture myself being deported to Madrid after just 6 weeks for stepping on a sidewalk, driving barefoot, buying beers for underage friends and driving someone’s car. He asked me few times how much I had drunk and my 100% Spanish brain cells decided to join efforts and all that came out of my mouth was: “No Sir, I didn’t drink absolutely nothing… you have to believe me… don’t send me back to Spain please… If you want, I can do the “fluflu” (accompanied by an elegant gesture with my mouth opened and my hand moving towards it rhythmically).
The serious and huge policeman looked confused so I continued, trying to explain myself: “Yes, please, I can blow you, but don’t send me back to Spain”. Yes, I said YOU instead of IT. I was referring to the breath test. Apparently my 100% Spanish brain cells were feeling playful that night. The policeman’s face changed completely and said, with a dead serious look: “M’am, what are you implying?”
Thank god my friend explained the situation as I was still trying to recompose myself. At the end, he saw how mortified I was, understood the confusion, and saw that I hadn’t drunk at all and just got a warning ticket, but I swear that was probably the biggest language screw-up I’ve had in my entire life. I’m sure that policeman had a few laughs about it afterwards and so did I.
Next time I’ll tell you about how and why I ended up joining the LGBT group (being totally heterosexual), the Quidditch club (yeah, they have those), Cigar club (hate cigars), Catholic club (as an agnostic) and how I became a cheerleader.