I met with a client last Tuesday at the jail. He's an older Latino man in his late fifties, and he's been here in the U.S. for almost twenty years. Still, his English isn't great, and when we're in the courtroom we use the Spanish interpreter.
But I stopped by to see him at the jail without arranging for an interpreter. His conversational English is okay, I understand a tiny bit of Spanish, and I figured between the two of us we could meet somewhere in the middle with Spanglish.
Besides, as far as his case was concerned, I didn't have anything to tell him. It was a morale visit, I just wanted to check in and see how he was doing. I figured I could handle that in Spanish if I had to.
As we talked, I noticed that the date on his analog watch read, "MAR 7." After we chatted for a few minutes, I mentioned it to him. "I think your watch is wrong. It's April."
He looked at his watch, looked at me, and said, "No, it's okay."
I thought maybe he didn't understand. So, I tried again in my dismal Spanish, pointing to his watch. "Tu reloj. Dice marzo, pero ahora es abril."
"Oh, okay, you fix it then?" He took off his watch and slid it to me through the bars.
"Sure, I'll fix it." Sometimes I set my father's watch for him. I was confident I could figure it out.
As we continued to talk, I tried to adjust the watch. First, I changed the time by accident. I had to consult my watch, then turn his watch back to the right time.
Then I found that I could push the dial halfway in to adjust the day and date. As I turned it, the date changed to "LUN 6" then "DOM 5." What???
Then I realized that the watch was in Spanish. And "MAR" didn't stand for March or Marzo, but for Martes, or Tuesday. Why didn't they teach me about this in the many, many years of Spanish classes I took? I didn't even realize there were Spanish language watches. I mean, it makes sense now, but I had never really thought about Spanish watches before. I wonder where you buy them here in the U.S.
Anyway, I felt kind of silly, handing the watch back to my client, set exactly the same as it had been when he handed it to me.
But he looked at it, smiled kindly, and said "Yes, yes, much better, thank you," and put it back on his wrist.
Which left me thinking that he was a really nice client.
Obviously, it doesn't take much to impress me when it comes to clients.