I’ve become friendly with my local street fruit vendor because he is friendly and has an easy smile. Despite our limited facility with each other’s language — my Spanish stopped in high school — we make an effort to communicate. When I wanted to buy only one basket of strawberries instead of 3, I struggled to learn “canasita” — the correct term for little basket — rather than my lame, made up version, “basketa.” He patiently reminded me every time I struggled.
I soon learned his name — not hard since it was emblazoned along the side of his cart. “Buenos dias, Juan” I’d call out as I approached. I’d told him my name, but he didn’t remember. No problem. “Una canasita, por favor” I’d tell him. Or “Cuanto?” as I pointed to the peaches. “Como se dice ‘peach’ en Español?” I’d ask, trying to enlarge my vocabulary. Then I’d dutifully repeat “durazno” trying to burn it in my brain. But it would soon escape. I knew I’d have to ask again.
Recently, an employee of the nearby bank was siting chatting with Juan when I approached. During a lull, I greeted him, “Hola Juan.” She thought I spoke Spanish and tried conversing with me, too. I told her I only spoke a few words, so she became Juan and my translator. “How do you know Juan?” she asked. I told her I came by one or two times a week for his fruit. “Juan es mi amigo” I said. He smiled and laughed. Then I added, “Mi novio.” We all laughed.
In the two weeks since, Juan’s son or daughter have worked the cart when I came by. But today he was there. “Buenos dias, Juan” I called as I approached. I asked “Cuanto?” pointing to the apricots. “Tres dollares,” he said with a smile. I decided to pass as I still had some ripening at home. “Tres canasitas de fresas, por favor” I said in my Kindergarten-level Spanish. While he was bagging my strawberries, a woman approached speaking Spanish. She and Juan exchanged a few words, then I heard him say something about “novia.” They both laughed. She said, “He says you’re his sweetheart!” I laughed. “I said that a few weeks ago. I’m surprised he remembered.” He threw 3 apricots in my bag. She said, “Nice.” I replied, “Flirting a bit helps I guess.” We laughed.
As I got in my car, she walked by, telling me through my open window, “He says you not only made his day with your novio comment, but you made his universe!”
Wow. I had no idea it was that easy making someone’s universe.
The morale of the story is we have no idea how our kindnesses of words and smiles affect others. Wouldn’t it be an amazing world if we all tried a bit harder to make someone’s universe?
Get your copy of Dipping Your Toe in the Dating Pool: Dive In Without Belly Flopping.