I’ve been going to the same deli for nine years. Working there were two Latin dudes named Juan and Jose. One was a short order cook and the other the delivery guy / sometimes cook. Both are so damned nice considering their grueling hours and commutes that they inspire me to enjoy my life and work half as much as they do.
The problem is, I never knew who was Juan and who was Jose. It didn’t matter much since I could just say Hola Juan! Hola Jose! And they both would smile, wave and say good morning. At Christmas, we delivered two envelopes with a card and cash as their “holiday bonus” one addressed to Juan & the other Jose and handed both to whomever was closest. So, they sorted that out.
Then the short order cook moved back home. It was sudden. One day he was just gone. Who was left? Juan or Jose? We didn’t know and the more time passed the more awkward it became to find out. I listened intently to anyone who would address the remaining guy but no one ever said his name.
Last week, I hosted my 10-year-old niece for her first trip to NYC. I devised a plan to teach her some phrases in Spanish with the ultimate goal to find out my deli guy’s name. Her first day in NYC I ushered her in to the deli and introduced her to the owners and Juan/Jose:
Me: Hola! Buenos días! Esta es mi sobrina.
Her: Mi nombre es Kaelyn.
And the mucho importante part
Her: Como tu llames?
Him: Mi nombre es Jose!
(Kaelyn and I high five. Mission accomplished.)
Kaelyn: Mucho gusto.
She’s now addicted to Duolingo & trying to learn Spanish and I am now calling out to Jose by name every chance I get to make up for lost time.