Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Dean Martin CD and The Old Lady

Why I wrote that letter:
* It was revision week, just before the language centre's B1 test. I got weary of the mindless learning of grammar rules, and felt that if I did indeed learn something from the past 24 weeks, I should have been able to express myself. On paper, at least.
* During class, we were given out a sheet on Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit, in English). The story of this play I didn't get, and still don't. Not sure if I ever get tragic comedies... Anyway, upon hearing the words 'die alte Dame', it unlocked a memory from a very forgotten past.
* Like a final showdown, I posed myself a challenge: use all the grammar tricks from the hat to scribe a text about my encounter with an 'alte Dame', then have it corrected by the teacher, disguised as extra letter-writing homework.
* I was also hoping that it would return to me with no red markings. Wishful thinking.

Background of the Story:
* Jasmin of 'Liebe Jasmin' addressed in my letter is not fictional. She is a friend.
* The year was 1999. Autumn.
* Location: Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden. I was on a student exchange programme, and so was Jasmin. But she was in Lund, Malmö (Malmo).

The True Story:
My memory is fuzzy now -- it was at the end of a 'school' day like any other, except it was sunny, and all my classmates seemed to have plans that afternoon. Could have been a Friday, or I just didn't want to return to my room to face homework.

I heard about this second-hand CD shop from a fellow school-housing-mate that lived in the adjacent building. I was getting bored with the usual MP3 music circulating in my laptop, so I decided to take a bus and head for this CD shop. It would have been my first experience buying second-hand CDs.

The store was dark and cramped with vinyls and CDs, and I sought nothing in particular. What caught my eye was the Dean Martin CD, for some reason I don't remember now. Or maybe I just did not want to leave empty-handed. Knowing me, I might have spent hours choosing a CD when it only felt like minutes to me.

When I finally left the CD shop and headed for the bus-stop, there was an old lady seated on the bench. With only one bench, I reluctantly sat down beside her. I do not remember what she wore, or how she looked now. Too much time was spent on fussing with the earphones, batteries and discman... But there was a lot of dark colour on her -- a large brown jacket, probably a hat or beret. I would like to think it was a fur coat, but it probably wasn't.

With the earphones and discman all ready to be loaded with a CD, I took out the Dean Martin album from my backpack and admired my new-old purchase. The first track was put on play, and then I heard a little humming. I tried to ignore it, but it was too obvious, so I had to force the angsty 20-year-old self to fake a smile her way. You never know; could have been a loony I always seem to attract.

'Good singer', she said.

Knowing there was no way of escaping it, I popped the earphone out from my left ear. How did she figure I could understand English? And then the small-talk ensued -- I was asked where I came from, I asked how she spoke such good English, and that led to her telling me she enjoyed learning languages as a hobby. There was English, French, and maybe Portuguese was in the works. She wanted to learn as many languages as possible!

That was so grand, I thought. And then her bus arrived.

She got up from the bench, flagged it down, turned around and threw me a tight hug. 'Good luck for the rest of your life', she said, and hurried up the bus. I looked up at bus full of passengers, and they all seemed to be smiling.

I gladly went back to listening to the music. Although, that CD never looked the same to me again.

And oh, that pink jacket? It deserves its own story.


  1. Oh Juanita, that's such a sweet story!!! I KNEW that old laidy was a fairy!!! :) This would make a great movie! :)
    Did YOU draw that lovely drawing, Juanita? :)
    Oh, and you studied in Sweden too! You've always been a cosmoplite! ;)
    Have a lovely weekend, and thank you for sharing this adorable story!

    1. A movie? :)
      Yes, I did make this sketch. I wish I wrote this down, or made a sketch 12 years ago!

  2. Beautiful post. Nice to see that strangers still talk to each other in these days of modern technology!
    By the way, Dean Martin is an excellent choice. ;)

    1. To be honest, I don't normally like talking to strangers and I use 'language barrier' as a shield...

  3. Enjoyed that ! Travelling the world the way you do makes it broader then ever when experiencing such meetings.

  4. What a lovely story. So nice to meet friendly and nice people isn't it?

  5. Miss Juanita, what a heart-warmin' tale 'bout how our Dino crosses each and every age and cultural barrier.,....bringin' folks together and makin' 'em pallies. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool...oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth. Know that your prose is bein' shared this day with all the pallies gathered 'round ilovedinomartin.

  6. Oh this is truly so sweet. Sometimes interactions with strangers on the street just stay with you and warm you so much, don't they? A lovely story.


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