Spanish students


Traffic crash scene at the corner of Clark and Randolph.

Oftentimes, I will meet one of my present or former Spanish students unexpectedly. I’m always happy to see them again, but I usually meet them long after I’ve forgotten their names. Once I was at the McDonald’s Playland near Midway Airport with my twin sons when they were about four years old and one of my former students greeted me with a loud and friendly, ¡Hola! I was happy to see her again, but this time she was with her young son and she was happy with her life.

Once while I was on duty as a police officer working in a patrol car, I was assigned to park my squad car with the blue lights flashing so other cars wouldn’t crash into a car that had crashed into the Cook County / City Hall building downtown. This must have been a slow news day because all kinds of cameramen came by to film the car that had crashed into the building while I just sat there in my squad car watching everyone come and go.

Then, I noticed that one cameraman was looking at me as he walked past. I couldn’t help but notice him, too. Then, we both recognized each other! He was in my Spanish class at UIC! He also recognized me. We kind of looked at each other with a look that could only mean, “This is what you do for a living?” I never imagined him as a cameraman. And he definitely never imagined me as a police officer.

Another time I was downtown where an employee of Dunkin Donuts was a theft victim. As I walked into Dunkin Donuts, one of my students saw me. We greeted each other and that was about it. However, I realized afterwards that he saw me in full police uniform walking into a Dunkin Donuts. How cliche! I was actually responding to a radio assignment, but I appeared to be acting like a typical cliché police officer going for coffee and donuts.

Last Saturday, as I was leaving the Burger King in Mount Greenwood with my twins, I saw a former Spanish student in the parking lot. We said hello to each other and then I noticed that he was with Mark Pera who is running for Congress so they gave me a flyer and asked me to vote for him. I responded that I would think about it. When I got home, just by chance, Mark Pera’s campaign office called me and asked me to vote for him. I told the caller that I had just seen him, but she didn’t believe me.

McJalapeño


Señor Jalapeño is everywhere.

I just drove through the McDonald’s in Pilsen and was I ever surprised! You can now buy jalapeño peppers for 25 cents each at McDonald’s! Where were those jalapeños when I was little. Whenever we ordered at McDonald’s or Burger King, my father would invariably ask for salsa or jalapeños, depending on his mood. Of course, they would always tell him that they didn’t have salsa or jalapeños. And my father, being my one and only father, would say, “That’s okay! I brought my own!”

Spanish in Burger King


Burger King in Mexico City

Last night, I was in Burger King with my sons. A Mexican family was standing behind me in line. I joked around with the cashier who took my order. We spoke in fluent colloquial English and I have a Chicago south side accent. The father of the Mexican family then ordered his food in broken English. Later, while I was waiting for my order, the father spoke to me in Spanish about his son who had just learned to walk the week before. I was surprised! I’m always surprised when total strangers speak to me in Spanish! I told a Mexican friend about this and she said, “But you don’t even look Mexican!”

As a boy, my father would take us to Burger King a lot. We would order our food and I dreaded waiting to hear my father’s order. After completing the order, my father would always ask, “Do you have hot peppers?” When the cashier would say no, my father would say, “That’s okay. I brought my own!” He would then pull out a jar of jalapeño peppers from his pocket. My father had hundreds of ways of embarrassing me in public.

That's okay. I brought my own peppers!