Friday, October 26, 2007

Do you hear what I hear?

Earlier this week I went out to lunch with a coworker. As we took our seats, I noticed that the girl in the booth behind ours was speaking in Spanish. I immediately picked out the accent: the girl had to be from PR. Sure enough, a few seconds later she mentioned having been there recently.

I thought to myself, "When she hangs up, I'm going to talk to her." I figured that I'd like it if someone showed their mancha de platano to me if the situation were reversed. But then I worried that by having noticed her accent, I might be mistaken for having snooped on her conversation.

I mulled that one over, and then I realized she sounded upset as she was talking. So I actually did start to snoop and, indeed, she sounded furious. I decided I'd better not say anything and mind my own metiche business.

I've rarely gotten a chance to approach the few boricuas I have seen around here. And I know they were boricuas not because I was snooping on them, but because they branded themselves -- one guy had a patch of the PR flag on his jacket, another had a flag hanging from his car's rearview mirror. But, at lunch the other day, I had to laugh because my very first instinct was to flash my PR badge, feeling sure that this girl would respond in kind. When I lived in Florida I had to repress the urge to do that at first, because we're not such a rare specimen 'round those parts. I can only imagine what a Puerto Rican who has been there for a long time would think if someone excitedly said, "Hey, I'm from PR too!" Look around you, zangano, so is everyone else.

In Portland, though, the Puerto Ricans I have approached have reacted just like I expected them to -- really happy to find another Puerto Rican. I've received invitations to come over for an evening of arroz con gandules and salsa music. I've gone gone out with them to see the PR group Plena Libre perform in front of hundreds Portlanders who had no idea what to expect from the band, but were intrigued enough to check them out anyway. I'm not exactly the best dancer out there, but that was one night where my footwork easily outshone everyone else's!

I'm not very extroverted when it comes to approaching someone new. With Puerto Ricans in Portland, though, those inhibitions disappear. I guess when you weigh the possibility of embarassment with the possibility of finding others like you in a place where there aren't many, social anxiety has a way of seeming silly.

So the furious lunch girl: I did snoop, but it was with the best of intentions. And, to be honest, I still have no idea what she was so mad about!


Olga said...

When you are far away from PR it is always so good to meet boricuas. When I lived in Germany anyone who spoke spanish was music to my ears!

Anonymous said...

I don't know, but the way you describe Portland, from what I've heard you tell us and from what I've read in your blogs, just makes want to move and live there... someday.

Wandy said...

Oh, by the way, the previous comments (el del pernil también) were from me.