an old joke (with moral overtones) that doesn’t start out with a man walking into
a bar. He’s already there and talking to a fetching woman who somehow got there
asks her if she’d be willing to go back to his apartment for $10,000. “Sure,”
she replies. Then he asks “Would you come to my apartment for $10? She indignantly
says: “Of course not!” What kind of girl do you think I am?” The man says: “I
already know what kind of girl you are – we just haven’t agreed on a price.”
I haven’t thought of that “joke” in years. Until the recent Secret Service story
appeared on the front page. It is a wonderful learning experience in communication,
local customs, terminology, acceptance of reality and International Relations
(of the worst kind). It may even boost sales of Spanish language tapes.
“Hola, Isabel, Tráeme chocolate (sin vodka), por favor.”
singer Nat “King” Cole, who regularly performed in Havana, once recorded an album
entirely in Spanish. One of the catchiest of the tunes was: Tomo Chocolate (drink
chocolate) quickly followed by the second line of “pago lo que debe” (loosely
translated and probably misspelled) as “pay what you owe.” There was Absolut(ely)
no mention of vodka.
If the men involved in this story had taken Mr. Cole’s
advice (both the beverage and paying part) this incident wouldn’t have happened.
If both the self-described “escort” and the SS agent were drinking chocolate,
they would’ve probably been able to do the currency exchange in their heads.
widely ignored party in this scandal is the hotel where the incident took place.
It maintains its standards for decency (and insuring the recommendation of the
Columbian State Department) by the policy of giving priority wake-up calls to
certain overnight guests.
The sign over the front desk reading “The Management
asks that all prostitutes (and / or escorts) vacate their rooms by 7:00 a.m. might
be enough, but the hotel took the extra step by instituting a 6:30 wake-up call.
Columbian police, who wisely advised the Americans to “pay what was owed” and
(were probably thinking “If you had only been drinking chocolate…”, also kept
their balance while walking the cultural tightrope of questionable behavior.
all farness to the Secret Service, the escort admitted that she didn’t know that
the men were travelling with the president (and she knew it even less in English).
Therefore, they were, in fact, keeping it a secret.
For an agency called
the Secret Service – this “transaction” has been played out in front of “toto
el mundo” or (my translation) in front of the whole mundo. The mundo is not amused
– or else it is amused very much.
While the Dean of Boys of the SS might
not be able to perform a nightly bed check for his little rascals – he could take
a page out of the oldest travel guide – (A Chinese tome called The Art of Travel)
and always carry a lot of small bills. Or in this case – large ones.
19 , 2012