Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Servicio Técnico

“Hi, good morning. So, the problem is that every afternoon I have cuts. There are cuts. The internet works, and then it doesn’t, and then it does again. Every two minutes. It falls and then returns. The red light blinks. Blinks? It is like this for one hour in the afternoon, every afternoon. I called the last week and they told me if the problem was not resulted, uh, uh, resolved in 72 hours, I should call again. Also, can you please speak slowly? I obviously don’t speak Spanish well.”

“Of course, no problem. Do you speak English?”


“Okay. I speak some English, but we will talk in Spanish so you can learn. Where are you from?”

“The United States.”

“Ahh, United States. Whose gone swan?”


“Who is going to win, Obama or Romney?”

“Oh! Obama. I hope. But I listened — um, this is hard — they say Romney has been very good in the debate, so things are changing.”

“I see. And what do you thin biscuit gannon stand?” 


“The wand afterstand.”

“I’m sorry, I…”

“Af… ghan… i…”

“Oh! Afghanistan! Um, obviously I do not like it. I think the soldiers are going to leave in 2014. But I believe that it is not responsible to leave without a military system or education or… those things. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, I understand. I am going to do a test on your line now. Have you been to Canada?”

“No, but I would like to. I recently realized I am a Canadian citizen. My mother was born there. Her father was military, so she thought … but yes. I don’t have a passport yet, but I will go!”

“I have a Canadian friend. He’s from Toronto. But honestly, Canada, the United States — they’ve never interested me. I would much rather go to other places, like Africa. What color is the light now?”

“Road. I mean red. Have you been to Asia or South America?”

“South America, yes, all over. I backpacked in Machu Picchu. Why are you living in Madrid?”

“I work at a high school in Moralzarzal. Do you know it? It’s near Villalba.”

“I’ve never heard of either.”
“Hm. Where in Madrid do you live?”

“I am in Chile.”

“Aha! I noticed that I did not recognize your accent! It was that! Where in Chile?”

“A town called Valleycars. It has about 40,000 people. It is on a river, the Tulip. It’s nice; it’s very quiet and I was born here. I live with my father and my sister.”

“How old is your sister?”

“40. I am 35.”

“Why have you just made that noise?”

“35 feels so old. But I still try to be active and do sports. I would like to go on a bicycle trip for several years. What color is the light now?”

“Still red. So wait, not like, a two-month bicycle trip, but years?”

“Yes, I was traveling for eight years.”


“What do you teach?”

“English, of course.”

“I used to teach music. I am a musician.”

“What do you play?”

“Trumpet, guitar. A little percussion.”

“No piano? In the United States everyone plays piano because…”

“It is a harmony. Like guitar. What color is the light?”

“Red, like always.”

“Has there been a sturmarang?”

“A storm or rain?”

“Rain, yes, but just a little. But like I have said, the problem started when the weather still made hot. Was being hot. When there was no storm, you understand?”

“Yes, I understand. I am going to transfer you to a technician.”


Previously: The First Time I Heard the Term "Helicopter Parents."

As you may have surmised, Gillian Brassil teaches English in Madrid. Her internet is working again.

63 Comments / Post A Comment


so lovely that I clapped my hands and sighed. thank you!


watch it over and over again, all day, every day!@j


This is so poetic in parts! I especially like the repetition of "What color is the light now?"

Once, I was on the phone with tech support based in India. My neighbors had several hens in their backyard, and one rooster. At one point the rooster started crowing and the support technician said "Ah, your man-chicken is feeling proud!". Best tech call ever.


I imagine this is what all of my dad's conversations are like in Mexico. He tried to make a pun one time when I was visiting and we went to the flea market--he wanted to buy a jigsaw puzzle but the seller was asking too much so my dad pretended like the puzzle was very heavy--a peso (money)/peso (weight) pun. But either the seller didn't get the pun or he just didn't enjoy it.


Oh my yes. Ranked near the top of my favorite experiences when I Lived Internationally (tm) are the two times I made French-language puns that made people laugh.

up cubed

@frigwiggin Peso is more like "dollar" than "money". I did hear a story from coworkers in South America where a new staffer fell out of the top bunk bed. Due to conjugation issues, he told everyone he shit the bed (caigo vs. cago) Oops.

fondue with cheddar

@upupandaway Haha. My middle school French teacher told a story about a former student who tried to tell people on a bus in France that he was going skiing (or maybe had gone skiing) but he misconjugated or used the wrong verb and essentially said, "I am a ski fairy." I'm sorry that I don't remember the original French—it's been a long time.

I always thought is was funny that there's only a very slight difference between the French words fish (poisson) and poison. In the latter, the "s" is pronounced as "z". Be careful how you order fish in a French restaurant!


@fondue with cheddar
ahaha. I can totally imagine I have made all sorts of blunders similar to this one but just never been told about it, which is also... funny.
it was probably je suis allée faire du skiing vs. je suis fée du skiing.

fondue with cheddar

@harebell There was definitely no allée in there. It was definitely only one word different. In my memory it was "j'ai faire du ski" vs "je suis faire du ski" but google translate tells me that's wrong. I don't know, but whatever it was it was funny!


@fondue with cheddar My Latin teacher was very insistent on teaching us the difference between pronouncing "penne" (pasta) and "pene" (penis) in Italian.

fondue with cheddar

@meetapossum Wow, there must be a lot of jokes about women eating pasta.


@fondue with cheddar Maybe j'ai fait du ski v. je suis fee du ski?

Faintly Macabre

@fondue with cheddar Maybe je [suis?] fais du ski vs je suis fee du ski?

French also has cul (ass), queue (line or slang for penis), cou (neck), and coup (blow/hit). I try to avoid attempting any of them for fear of everyone laughing at me.

Faintly Macabre

@Faintly Macabre Oh, and my high school French teacher said that she was once at a kinda fancy dinner in France where she didn't know most of the people. Instead of saying "Je suis etrangere," (I'm a foreigner) she said "Je suis etrange" (I'm strange). And everyone believed her!

fondue with cheddar

@oboe-d-amore That was it!

@Faintly Macabre Hm...my art history teacher (in a discussion about Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q.) said "cul" meant "pussy". This was a tiny 70-something man who looked like Tommy from Rugrats. I think he just liked to say "pussy".

Faintly Macabre

@fondue with cheddar Nope, mostly means ass! I just looked up slang for "pussy," and apparently "gonzesse" is one (also "chatte"). I've definitely heard that word before and thought it meant something much more G-rated...


@upupandaway When I worked in Germany for a summer, I accidentally said "and everyone was screwing each other on the dance floor" instead of "everyone was bumping into each other" when telling coworkers I didn't know that well yet a story about a mosh pit. Oops! They were highly amused.

fondue with cheddar

@Faintly Macabre Gonzesse sounds pretty silly but chatte seems appropriate.


@Faintly Macabre One time a Frenchman told me that I should refrain from saying "Merci beacoup," because the way I was saying it sounded like "Merci, beau cul." Thanks for that nice ass.

fondue with cheddar

@lizardjellybean That's what I will say immediately after the next time I have sex.


@fondue with cheddar Ha ha - Back when I too lived internationally, I met this big, burly Scotsman who regaled us with the story of how a simple translation/ pronunciation mistake got him an awful lot of funny looks when he'd just moved to France. You see, he used to be a submariner. In French, a sous-marinier. But somehow he'd got it all confused and was saying he had worked as a suce-marin - literally someone who sucks off sailors. Apparently, he'd been using the expression for a good couple of weeks before anyone dared to put him straight. Bless.

fondue with cheddar

@BlodwynPig That's hilarious!


@Faintly Macabre "Gonzesse" definitely doesn't mean "pussy": it's just slang for "girl" (roughly equivalent to "chick"). I think whoever wrote your dictionary maaayy have been fond of fucking with foreigners' heads.

Faintly Macabre

@[sic] Oh, good to know! I remember seeing some other word that wordreference got totally wrong as well a while back. I think it just can't get all languages' slangs totally right all of the time.

Miss Maszkerádi

@everybody, apropos of accidental foreign lewdities, it's far too long a story to say how I came to discover this, but it turns out it's extremely easy to mispronounce the Hungarian phrase for "cheers" so instead of saying "to your health" you say "to your whole ass." The WHOLE ass, mind you.

miss buenos aires

@BlodwynPig This isn't dirty, but I did once tell a French guy he slept like a bonfire (bûcher) instead of like a log (bûche). He got kind of mad at me, actually.

fondue with cheddar

@miss buenos aires Why would he get mad? "You sleep like a bonfire" doesn't even make sense.

Which reminds me...there's a business nearby called Boucher Funeral Home. Boucher is French for butcher. Would you take your dearly departed there?

miss buenos aires

@fondue with cheddar Yeah, it didn't make any sense to me, either, but he kind of slapped my arm and made an annoyed face.

Boucher Funeral Home: Your loved ones wil FIT in that casket!

fondue with cheddar

@miss buenos aires That's a great slogan!

French Guy sounds like kind of a connard.


"Blinks"! You can say "blinks" in your second language! On the phone! The terrifying, terrifying phone! I just looked up "blink" in my second language and I already forgot it! I am in awe! And grinning!


@Cawendaw I feel the need to pretend that we don't blink in my second language, but actually I just looked it up and not only did I know it, but it has TWO varietals.

So impressed.


@bibliostitute When you said that, for a minute I thought I remembered how to say "blink," but actually that was it was the word for "infuse; administer an IV." That would have been an interesting conversation.
Also, predictably, I studied both words for the JLPT level 1, and remember neither of them.


I enjoyed this so much!


This made me super happy!

And reminded me of the time I had to call my supervisor in Japan and tell him that my electricity didn't exist. It just didn't exist! The refrigerator and also the TV and also the lights didn't exist!


@onthesideofmyface My dad once told a lady that he, himself, did not exist when asked for directions in Spanish. (He was attempting "Yo no sé" and hit "Yo no soy" instead. It did have the effect he was going for, though, which was that she gave up on him and asked somebody else.)


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I wanted to chime in and say that i love this in and of itself but also because of Chileeeee but then i felt like i was announcing that i Live Internationally.
which i guess i just did anyway. oh well. thematic day. But the phone is hard and this post is wonderful.


@Kulojam I think it's perfectly fine to announce that you live internationally when the topic of discussion is, y'know, living internationally.
Which is to say, me too, this was me, every day, for five years. If you are snooty, then I snoot with you, for this piece snoots to my snoot like nothing has ever snooted before.

Tragically Ludicrous

@Cawendaw sadly, I mostly just say "Spreekt u Engels?" and the other side says "natuurlijk" and then the rest of the conversation is boring. :(


@Tragically Ludicrous The practicality of this solution really depends on the level of English proficiency on the other side of the phone, and the amount of time your professors spent brainwashing you into thinking that never speaking English if you could possibly help it was the only way you could possibly come close to deserving your degree.

Tragically Ludicrous

@Cawendaw The Dutch love English (my whole degree was in it) and 90% of the ones I know are surprised I'm even bothering to learn. Great/not great at the same time.


@Kulojam My god I feel bad for poor LW1, who lives internationally, but holy shit am I gonna use that phrase like it's my job.


@Tragically Ludicrous

I would always hear people say 'geen idee', and for the longest time I thought they were saying 'rainy day'.

Tragically Ludicrous

@nyikint it is a crazy moon language.


@Tragically Ludicrous Indeed!
Mr TARDIStime's dad is from Holland and one of his brothers is currently living and working there. He recently came back to visit the family and listening to him and his Dad talk to each other in Dutch was so cute (all of the Ümlauts!) but also slightly tear-jearky in the good way, because you could see his dad was so proud that his son was immersed in his heritage.

Tragically Ludicrous

@TARDIStime awwww. Dutch has some weird pronunciation things (will never understand 'ui'), and it's really funny to look at written, but it does have a nice cadence to it. And I like the Dutch, generally.


@Kulojam Oh hello thread. I am also trying very hard to learn Dutch. I like it a lot. But as soon as anyone hears me stumbling over a sentence (often), it heads right back to Engels.


@Kulojam My tip for learning Dutch is to come to Belgium! I could never get anyone in Amsterdam to practice with me, but now I live in Antwerp and have gotten pretty fluent, albeit with a Flemish accent. People here are very encouraging, I guess because of all of the sensitivity surrounding language politics here.


@AMS Just keep speaking Dutch to whoever is being a prat about only speaking English. My English and Dutch are equally good (unless you start talking to me about Eastern philosophy, or something, in Dutch) and working in a cafe I realised I did the switch to English thing far too quickly. But as soon as the second attempt at Dutch communication was made I switched right back to English. It's really kickass you're all making the effort though, my mum's been with a Dutchman for 25 and lived in NL for 15 and I've never hear her (have to) speak Dutch.

Zo, zeg. Wat zijn er veel 'pinners in Nederland. Als er iemand in Den Haag is die wil oefenen ben ik volgende week de hele week VRIJ!


@Kulojam Oh, oh--ik ook! Of, ik ben nu niet in Nederland, maar ik ben er opgegroeid. En ik heb haast geen Nederlands gesproken sinds ik vierteen was, en ik mis het! Zo'n schattige taal.

The problem is that everyone over the age of 12 in Holland speaks perfect English, so I imagine trying to speak Dutch to them feels a bit silly. When I lived in Switzerland people were okay with me trying to speak German, but it's so frustrating when both people in the conversation are trying to practice their second language!

Tragically Ludicrous

@PheasantRevolt Ik woon in Utrecht!

@glitterary: it's compounded by 90% of the people I know being in academia like me, so they're especially inclined towards English as they like to publish in it and go to conferences in it etc etc. The two people I know who aren't academic are more positive about me learning than the ones who are...


The things I remember how to say in Dutch:

- Ik kom klaar (the very first thing I learned how to say, though it wasn't actually happening, unfortunately)
- Rot op, klootzak (always useful)
- knuffelvriendje (because my god what a cute word)


@mustelid oh and FRITES OORLOG for obvious reasons mmmmmm


@mustelid YAY. @Tragically Ludicrous Me too, am in the *exact* same situation here. @PheasantRevolt Jammer, ik woon in Amsterdam en volgende week ben ik heel bezig. Booooo.

George Templeton Strong

One of my most cherished memories from my many, many, many travels with my partner was being in a men's clothing store abroad, me chatting away happily in a language I don't really speak but understand enough, the salesman being patient and speaking in the native language. My partner, frustrated that none of the beautiful clothing would fit his tall, broad frame, said to me, in English, "Ask him why they only have clothes made for dwarves." The salesman replied, "I speak English." My nephew became the best-dressed 12-year-old in his class that year.


This was really really great.


Just the other day I told my roommate, in my native tongue, that the radiators in our apartment do not "make hot." She has assured me that I will never live it down.

Jen in RO

@EdgyLatinist I once told my American friend that I'm going to wash my teeth (because hey, that's how you say it in my language). She still makes fun of me 10 years later...

Faintly Macabre

@EdgyLatinist Yesterday I was with a French woman and a family friend who speaks decent French in a kinda touristy restaurant.

Friend: "Could we have some water?"
Waiter: "With or without gas?" (aka bottled)
Me: "Kitchen sink!"
Waiter: ???
Me: "Kitchen sink!"

Tap water in French is "eau de robinet," (literally, tap water) but the only phrase I could remember at the moment was lait ribot, which is buttermilk. And apparently saying "de l'evier" so quietly that it sounds like "de la ville" is not a good substitute.


@Jen in RO take heart- many Americans, my grandmother included, say the same thing!


@Faintly Macabre KITCHEN SINK! Oh man I love circumlocution.


What, no geeks here? I have a feeling your device is suffering from power that is uneven, with surges and sags. I'm only American, not some suave international, suggesting you get at least a surge protector between the modem and the power outlet. It's not unusual to have the same surges and drops at the same time every day. If you want the problem to go away forever, buy a power conditioner, which will process the electrical spikes and valleys and smooth them out. You'll be the envy of the neighborhood . Also, lovely story, thank you.

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