Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Welcome To Babel

Over the years I have learned enough Spanish so that if I am ever stranded in a Spanish speaking country, like Miami, I won't starve or be unable to find a toilet. "Por favor, donde es los bano?"(where is the restroom), at which point the person I am talking to will reply in machine gun fast Spanish, something along the lines of, "You go over the hill and turn north and squat.". My interpretation is usually wrong.

The worst problem with language was Paris, France, where Mark and I ordered martinis at a restaurant because it was the only word on the menu that we understood, and got two large glasses of straight vermouth. At the Louvre cafeteria, thinking I was so clever, I ordered 'poulet avec fromage, blanc'. I was expecting chicken with white cheese, what I got was an anemic little bird leg, along with a large bowl of plain yogurt. Like most Americans I really only understand, and speak one language fluently, sort of. Unlike Most European countries and Canada, our educational system does not require second languages.

When I was in fourth grade at Saint George School, I was encouraged to become an altar boy because all my friends were doing it, and it was sort of expected. My biggest problem is that back then all masses were said in Latin, a language no longer spoken, and we had to learn it so we could respond to the priest during the mass. So, we were each given a four page pamphlet with the entire mass written out, with the priests part and our response. Unfortunately I never could get past the first page because I was always making up different words than what we were supposed to say. The first line was "Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.", which I would change to something like "A day with Kay the kitty cat is good for you and meum.". This of course brought uncontrollable laughter from the other boys, and pissed off Father O'Connell.

The last straw for Father O'Connell, was when he brought us over to the church to actually practice at the altar. Back and forth we would go from the side of the altar and over to the priest, doing all the moves that would be required during a real mass. Unfortunately, I was a little dork who couldn't resist being the center of attention. Every time I walked past the bells that are rung during the mass at special times, I would 'accidentally' ring them with my foot. By the fourth occurrence of 'accidental bells', Father O'Connell went nuts, and my career as an altar boy was over. Other than having to explain it to my parents, all in all I was relieved, and it was probably for the best. After all, I probably would have ended up asking ‘where is the toilet’ in Latin at some point in the mass.


  1. I too was an Alterboy drop out. I couldn't get past the Latin. I think my mother was preparing me for the priesthood.

  2. I'm sure the church would like all of the priest stories to be this innocent. At least you were the one trying to ring someone's bells.

  3. ooooooooooooooh. i can't believe anonymous went there. yeah, we were all thinking it.

    but wow. take that catholic church.

  4. I am pretty sure that St. George never, ever had that problem. At least not when I was a kid.

  5. I don't know but from what I could remember of the "teen club" (or some equally "cool" name like that) with the super-cool Father P#**@ (dont want any lawsuits here)there were some "issues"... although none with young alter boys. Just cute blonde teenage girls...

  6. Okay, I just realized that I spelled 'altar' wrong throughout this whole story. I know how to spell 'altar', and I wasn't trying to imply that the priests were trying to alter some boys. I have corrected my mistake. My only excuse is that I did it in a hurry because I had guests in my office and I only had a short window of opportunity to write and publish the story.