Martha gave me the address and a map of the city of San Diego, and she vaguely explained to me how to arrive at the U-Haul office. Also, it was my first time driving a huge truck in a city. Even though I was nervous, I arrived at the office. I was really happy, but my happiness ended when the person in charge of the office told me that they couldn’t accept the truck there because it was too big and they didn’t have enough room for it. Instead, he gave me the telephone number of the main office where I would receive the right address of where to return the truck. I went back to the house and pondered if I should call or not. On one side, I was worried about my basic English and my particular Mexican accent. But on the other hand, I knew that I needed to return the truck because U-Haul would charge us another day of rent, and that would cause a binational problem with Martha. Going against my own fear, I made the phone call and did my best. My conversation was more or less like this:
He: Hello, how I can help you.
I: Hello, I would like to return a truck with towing.
He: Ok, bring it to (I didn’t hear the numbers) Elcayonboulevard, (or at least that was what I heard).
I: Could you repeat the address, please?
Again, I didn’t understand the numbers and the street name was impossible to get. Elcayonboulevard. Then I had the great idea to say, “How do you spell it?” I don’t know why I asked that, since I am very bad at spelling words.
The man spelled the address again, but I confused y with j. Even though I didn’t have the right address, I ended the conversation. I took my map and looked at the names of the streets, wondering which had a similar sound. After several minutes: bingo! I thought, Of course! El Cajón! He had pronounced it with a gringo accent, El Cayon. I was so happy that I had understood this. With the new address, I checked the map again. The location was a little farther away than the first U-Haul I had gone to. Again I drove the huge truck, and finally I found the business. They checked the rental documents and the truck, and everything was fine.
When I left the office, I was in the middle of a new and different part of the city, and of course I didn’t recognize anything. Even though I felt very insecure, I acted without hesitation. My first question was, Which side of the street do I need to be on to take the bus? Using my logic, I decided to cross the street to the side opposite the side that I had arrived at the office. Then, I had an avalanche of questions: How much money do I need to pay? Do I give the money to the driver? Do I have to pay my trip exactly? If I pay with a five-dollar bill, am I going to receive the change? How can I tell the driver that I need to go to Hillcrest? Oh my God! I felt lost and stupid. When I saw the posted bus schedules I wondered which bus number I needed to take.
Because I felt isolated and a little nervous in that part of the city, I decided to take the first bus that came. That was how I started my experience on a bus in San Diego. Once I was on the bus, I started to observe the people. The passengers looked odd. When a man who was wearing perfume got on the bus, a woman said, “Somebody smells so good!” which made me want to laugh. Several people had white plastic bracelets on their arms. A conversation started between some of the passengers about perfumes. I thought that my fear was making me think badly of the people around me. I continued observing them, but I decided I was right, unfortunately: almost all the people in the bus were weird. I had a second thought. I thought that the bus was a special one for disabled people, and I felt worried about why the bus had stopped to pick me up.
Finally, I decided to leave the bus. I felt paranoid at that point. When I got off the bus I was in some part of downtown. Fortunately, there were also common people in San Diego. A woman on the street told me which bus to take back to Hillcrest, and she was right.
Now that I remember that event, I think that I was brave to try to return a huge U-Haul truck on my second day in San Diego. But I always smile remembering my first trip in a bus. Weeks later, a good friend told me that the part of the city where I went to return the truck is where the mental hospital is.
Gladis Jiménez Glez
Gladis finished her Master of Arts in Spanish at SDSU in May, 2014. Currently, she teaches children Spanish in an after-school program. She is a member of the St Paul's Vision for Mission (V4M) strategic planning committee.