LanguageThe Feels

Taking the Small Wins

young female student learning sign language during online lesson

We’ve been kind of quiet here lately, not because anything bad happened, just, you know, life. Work. All that stuff.

Today, a random Tuesday, otherwise unremarkable, was a big win for me.

Bear with me, I realize how trivial this is going to sound.

We order grocery delivery from our local supermarket (Pingo Doce). We don’t have a car, and sometimes stuff is heavy, don’t judge me. Every single time I order, there is the inevitable phone call that happens about an hour before they deliver, wherein the delivery person tells me what they couldn’t find. (Inventory management at Pingo Doce is not the best, so you kinda never know what you’re going to get – or really, not get.)

I dread that phone call every time.

It’s awful.

My Portuguese is getting better, but phones will always be god-mode for me. Even in English, I rely a lot on facial expressions and lipreading to understand people, so on the phone it’s 100x harder for me.

When that call comes in, I always ask if they speak English and they almost never do (which is 100% fine, of course. I’m a guest here, and I don’t expect or even hope that everyone speaks English.)

I can usually understand about half of what’s said, and just answer “sim” (“yes”) or “Não faz mal” (“No harm done”, effectively). Like, I get it, you don’t have the thing, and you’re letting me know. There’s nothing either of us can do about the store not having the thing and I wish this call didn’t have to happen, but here we both are.

Usually on these calls I can grasp (if by vocal inflection alone) what’s happening. It’s weird because I know the words for the things I ordered, but not always the brands, so things can get confusing very quickly, and people here talk fast, so by the time I parsed that thing they just said, they’re 30 words ahead of me and now I’m lost.

My phone rang. My heart sank.

This woman was so nice. She said she didn’t speak English, so we continued on in Portuguese.

Friends, I understood everything she said.

I absolutely fucked up some of my responses to her. Picked the wrong tense (in the same way I accidentally told the mailman that he didn’t live here anymore, when I meant the previous tenants did not, and in the same way I told a friend I don’t find children delicious), wrong word, etc etc.

She sputtered for a moment as she was trying to understand me, but also kinda chuckled and was so patient and kind, and we got through it, but this time without me wondering WTF I just agreed to. For the first time, I KNOW exactly what I’m not going to get in my delivery, and I’ve never felt better about not getting what I want.

It’s been a rough two weeks. Version 7 of our software was released, so I was feeling pretty beat up. The release went well, but it was a lot. I didn’t realize how badly I needed this win.

The asshole in me wants to steal this from myself. WHY did it take you a goddamned YEAR to be able to have a simple phone call?? And maybe on another day, that asshole will win. Not today though. Today I take the W.

PS – what kind of Portuguese grocery store is out of HAM???

Até breve,
Alison (aka “snipe”)

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1 Comment

  • Scott Thomas
    Scott Thomas
    July 2, 2024 at 11:13 am

    So happy for you! I’ve been trying to find replacement things that I like for stuff I’m used to like tilapia…they just don’t really have it here. I’ve been trying other whitefish but it’s just not the same. I don’t have the language barrier that you do (outside of a strong accent here or there), but I’m happy to hear that you let yourself have the win 🙂


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