Sunday, April 3, 2011

Breaking the Awkward Pause

The conversation around the table continued after ordering our pizza inside a very quaint, cozy Italian restaurant called, Costa Verde.  As suspected, I sat quietly, trying to find a way to blend into the conversation, though watching the smiles and hearing the laughter of my friends was enough to keep me preoccupied.   Moments, later one of my friends suggested for us to go outside to have a smoke.  Soon, four of them found themselves hacking their butts, huddling in their thick coats, laughing the cold shivers away.  Watching them through the large window pane to my right, they stood waving, beckoning for me to join them.  With a grin, I shook my head no; electing to give my hungry, jet-lagged body a rest.

I was growing accustomed to the acquired foreign taste of, Schlappe-Seppel as I drenched my taste buds of sweet, liquid wheat.  Though, I couldn’t concentrate on the suds for too long since I felt it would be polite to converse with my new friend sitting directly beside me.  

Knowing that many foreign beers would be experimented in the next few weeks, I averted my attention from the tasty brew to smile at her.

Dora sat tall, with pride oozing from her body, smiling from ear to ear.  I was told earlier that she was a little drained from work, and I sensed that she was possibly thinking about finding her bed.  After exhaling a heavy sigh, she answered my gesture with a shy grin.  We sat alone at the table as the 'awkward pause clock' struck 3 minutes and counting when I finally made the effort to speak.

“Hallo.” She reciprocated politely.
“Are you good?”  I said slowly and clearly.
“Good!" she said nodding her head.

We sat speechless for another 2 minutes, trying to find a way to converse.  My four interpreters stood outdoors, holding their cancer sticks, showing no sign to re-enter the restaurant.  They all looked at me smiling when I realized, I was stuck to find a way to communicate with someone who cannot speak a word of English. 

"What do I do?" I thought to myself.   

I sat sweating a bit, fumbling to find a way to get her to speak to me.  I had so many questions to ask her but my mind could only think in my mother tongue.  The pause grew longer as I tried to telecommunicate to my friends to come inside to help me delete the awkward situation.  Finally, a simple method emerged from right under my nose. 

All I had to do was point.

I turned my head to make eye contact her and I promptly pointed to the candle in front of us.

Dora smiled at me.  Her body language relaxed a little when she responded to my gesture.

“Kerze.” I echoed, butchering the pronunciation. 

"Candle." I responded, and waited for her to pronounce the word.

Next, I pointed to the flame. 

“Flamme.” she accentuated slowly. 
"Flamme." I repeated.

It was like kindergarten, and all we could do was laugh at each other’s pronunciation. Within moments, the awkwardness passed and we grew comfortable with each other's company. 
It was fun to sit with Silke’s mother translating each object around the table. 

A few minutes later the pizza arrived and my friends found their seats. 
Who says it’s impolite to point?

Antony S Scandale
copyright Sept 18 2008