Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hot - and not in a sexy way

It's been a rough couple of days. Firstly, Mr Tweddle caught Man-flu. (It's like ordinary flu, but A LOT worse...apparently)
There was a whole lot of lolling in nightwear and grunting around the house - and not in a sexy way. And then I caught his Man -flu - and there was more lolling around in nightwear and groaning around the house - still not in a sexy way.
Then as fever hit so did soaring temperatures in LA, and that is precisely when our air conditioner ground to a halt.
It was grim.
100+ degrees is hot anyway, but for a Scottish person - someone who was brought up in a climate of  sleet and rain - it's like the halls of Hades itself.
Now, in between cold drugs, and nightwear changes, and the obligatory feeding of the children (it's the law apparently) we had to work out a way to find an available air conditioning repair man during a heatwave - which is about as easy as trying to find a rainbow flag in Kim Davis' garage.

So, we call round a couple of friends and they refer their air-con people, and appointments are made, and round they come.
By this time, Mr Tweddle is half-ways recovered - he's dressed at least and awake for most of the day. I on the other hand, sit glassy-eyed and sniffling in 'loungewear,' as each air-con company gives us their pitch.
The first guy starts off with "Well you're lucky your house is not on fire. The fuse blew. Otherwise the whole thing would have gone up."

Apparently we need a whole new air conditioning system.
"Really , you're looking at around $16k," he says, in a tone that makes me feel guilty for not just having $16k in my pajama pocket - (I knew there was a reason for that pocket on the chest.)
I am sick and ashamed and really really frickin hot (and not in a sexy way) so I decide to switch off for the rest of the conversation.
And I do.
Then one single sentence is audible through the fog. I am sick, I am tired, I am going through all sorts of economic shame and yet this one sentence stands out.
I hear him say.
"And all of our workers completely speak English, so you have nothing to worry about there."

I hadn't been aware that I was worried.
I wanted someone to fix my air conditioner, not read me a book.
I was too sick to understand why I was annoyed, but I was really really frickin annoyed.
I decided, somewhat groggily that even if I did have $16K in my pajama pocket, I wouldn't be giving it to this guy anyway.
Mr Tweddle continued to listen (he's a facts collector) and eventually this aircon guy left - after charging us $99 to frighten the frickin life out of us.

He was replaced my the aircon guy 2, who announced, smilingly,  that his immune system was made of steel. I retreated to the coolest part of the house. I hated him for being healthy and I hated me for not being the kind of person who could just rustle up $16K. And the speak English thing was still bothering me, but my head was too much of a fog.

He wanted us to rip the house apart.
"Ditch everything and go solar."
"Uhm...isn't that kind of wasteful?"
 "No. It's the proper thing to do environmentally and it'll only cost you $22K!"
(I have to point out, this one wasn't recommended by a friend.)

It was a hot and uncomfortable night in Tweddley Manor.

The third air con man came this morning. He'd being working on air conditioning for years. He'd fixed and fitted for a friend of mine and for her parents, and he basically is 'the go-to guy' for her whole family.
He wandered up to the air conditioner, flicked a couple of switches and announced the condenser was broken and had blown th fuse. He had it fixed in around 20 minutes and left with a check for $235.
When Mr Tweddle had dolefully mentioned that he supposed we'd need to replace the whole system pretty soon, air-con man had laughed and said, "Not at all, that's good for another 10 years."

So, my point.
Sitting in the refreshingly cool air, first day in real clothes rather than pajamas, out of all the things to be annoyed about, I find I am still really really really really irritated by the, "And all of our workers completely speak English, so you have nothing to worry about there."

When we first arrived in this country 7 years ago, one of the first people we got to know is Latina. She speaks hardly a word of English and yet she is one of the most trustworthy, kind and hard-working people I know. She would never try to screw anybody out of money and if someone were poorly or frightened, she would offer a hug or bring soup.
I have never known her to lie.  She would never treat anybody as being beneath her, and in all the time that she has known me, she has never assumed that I am stupid or lazy or that I might delve into the contents of her purse, because I can't speak very good Spanish.

"And all of our workers completely speak English, so you have nothing to worry about there."

I wonder if he would have said the same thing to me were my eyes brown and my hair dark. I wonder if it would have felt quite as eager to point that out,  were my skin not sickly, Scottish translucent, white.
It irritates me because I can't work out why he would say it. But in a way I am glad he did, because in the middle of my Man- flu and $16K shame, I might not otherwise have heard the truth.

Which is.
The words Air Con1 man and I use are the same. Our speech sounds and sentence structures generally equate to being 'English', but the language we speak is  totally different.
And his language is not one I have any inclination learning.

Instead when I bump into my Latina friend this week, in very very bad Spanish I will try to tell her all about my weekend, and in very very bad English she will try to tell me about hers. And we will laugh about the Man -flu and the heatwave and the pajamas and shake our heads about the different air conditioning guys. And we will understand enough of the words exchanged, to feel it was a satisfying conversation.
Because, aside from the fact that I'm 5"10 and she's 5'1, we basically view the world the same.

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