Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cleanup In Aisle Four - Practical Bilingualism

2011 09 07
Last day in Portimao

My assigned task yesterday, in fact my only task for the whole day other than blogging, was to locate a bag of the small square melba toasts we so adore on Meredith.  These things are incredible - highly stressed packages of arid little toast crumbs that, when bitten, explode into a billion points of water absorbing brilliance.  They suck your mouth dry in a split second.  Cool.  They also go well with the local young cheese.

Luck was not with me that day and I had traversed the endless aisles of the Jumbo grocery store finding nothing that resembled a melba toast.

Finally I was reduced to asking for directions from staff.  Staff are rare things in a Portuguese store and a cause for celebration when one is present.  Obviously my luck was changing for there immediately before me was a person adorned with the tiny jacket worn by all Jumbo staff.

She was mopping up a red mess in Aisle Four - Salty Snacks.  Actually she was more attacking the mess than mopping it and her mop handle was nearly a blur it was moving so fast.

Hesitantly I interrupted the work flow.  A quick tap on the shoulder accompanied with a gentle "excuse me...".  This woman came equipped with air brakes.  She stopped so fast she gave off a compression wave as atmosphere bounced off her instantly stationary frame.

She looked at me hesitantly.  I proceeded.   "Tiny toasts?" I muttered hopefully.

I knew I had blown it as a cloud crossed my unwilling guide's umarked brow.  Quizzical she just looked at me.  It came to me in a flash.  "tiny tostas" I said more hopefully.

A lightbulb clicked into brilliance.  Her visage cleared and she visibly gained in stature.

"YES" she almost shouted.  "GO ONE" and she pointed down the row to the next aisle with her right arm.  Then her right hand shot out at ninety degrees and she motioned me to proceed to the right.  "THEN GO LEFT".

I thanked her profusely and followed her instructions right to the tostas.

And somedays life is just that cute.

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