Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"I'm Sorry?"

Sunday afternoon I biked around Central City, a once bustling, now quiet black neighborhood near my house, taking pictures. As I was headed down Simon Bolivar, a Latino man approached me to ask for directions:
Man: [incomprehensible]
Me: I'm sorry?
Man: [incomprehensible]
Me: Say that one more time.
Man: wine... store...
Me: Oh, wine store? Like to drink? [I make the international tip-the-hand-up drinking gesture] Um, uh, I guess Louisiana Discount Market. Go to the light. Take a left. Go a few blocks. It's on the left.
Man: [tentatively nods]
Me: Okay?
Man: Wine... store...
Me: Oh, Martin's Wine Cellar! Martin's Wine Cellar?(a heavily damaged store where he presumably had a job)
Man: [tentatively nods]
Me: Oh, okay. Go through the light. Take a left on...
I hadn't travelled a hundred feet before a truck with three workers pulled up. The man sitting in the middle asked:
Man: [incomprehensible]
Me: I'm sorry?
Man: [incomprehensible]-eee-ana.
Me: Say that again?
Man: Loo-eeez-eee-ana.
Me: Oh, Louisiana Avenue! This is Washington. Take a right. Go to the next light...
I don't know if they understood a word I was saying. I don't know if they ever found where they were going. One thing is clear. Somewhere in the migrant worker handbook it says, "When lost in an unfamiliar city, ask the white guy on a bike for directions."

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