Friday, August 10, 2007

the language barrier

oh man. i had a "donkey kick"* moment today at work. it was simultaneously the most embarassing and hilarious moment of my life (after the donkey kicks, of course).

the back story: part of my job is to call travellers or their travel agents if i am missing information from them for their upcoming trip (things like passports, waivers, bike info etc). normally this process is pretty straight forward but today... oh today. it's going down in the history books.

so on my report that tells me which information i'm missing from our travellers, i see 3 couples on a provence walking trip that haven't sent back their forms yet. they all have spanish names and their travel agent is called salvador. normally i would ask my spanish-speaking colleague Ana to call them, but i see that the number for the travel agency is american and the agency name is in english so i decide to go ahead and give 'er a shot. well. the conversation went a little something like this:

her: agencia americana *something else in spanish i don't understand*
me: do you speak english *slight panic*
her: no. no ingles.
me: um. okay. *long pause, tentatively* salvador?
her: salvador non *something else in spanish i don't understand*
me: *full panic* SALVADOR?
her: *repeats phrase in spanish that i don't understand*
at this point ALL of my colleagues have stopped what they're doing and turned around and are staring at me. including Ana, the spanish speaker. i look at her desperately and say
me: UN MOMENTO *to Ana* how do you say i want to speak to Salvador????????
Ana: quiero hablar con Salvador!
Me: quiero hablar con Salvador!
her: *something in spanish i don't understand*
me: *repeats phrase in spanish that i don't understand to Ana*
Ana: *translating* he's not there!
Me: *to Ana* how do you say I'll call back???
Ana: *translates for me, but i can't understand what she's saying*
me: *repeats the closest thing to the phrase that i can get out of my mouth*
her: *something in spanish i don't understand*
me: um... *long pause* hola! *hangs up*
the SECOND i hang up the phone the ENTIRE room erupts with laughter. i get up, bow, my face turns red, and i try really hard not to die from embarassment.

sweet jesus. the perils of working at a travel company!

*donkey kick: a moment of utter clusterfuck, the ulitmate embarassment; orginated circa 2006 during a performance of wicked when an audience member had to run to the bathroom in the middle of the show, fell over 4 fellow audience members in the process of exiting her seat and while she was going down did a "donkey kick" to try to free her entangled feet but ended up losing her shoes in the process (note: she still proceeded to the bathroom shoeless).

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