It’s the Milk’s Fault

By Steve Carr

When my package failed to arrive again last week, I phoned customer service. The unaffected voice across the wireless connection replied, “The mailroom didn’t get the fax.”

Interpretation: “I’m sorry, I forgot to fax the order to the mailroom so they would know to ship it.” In fairness, her words were accurate and informative. And, if she managed to fax the order yet that day, the mailroom clerk would receive it, and I’d eventually receive my package.

Years ago, when I was studying Spanish, I was a wide-eyed guest in an Argentine home. We were sitting around a cozy breakfast table when my hostess dropped an open carton of milk as she turned from the fridge. She used a word I couldn’t later find in my dictionary, then added, “La leche se me cayo’.”

She hurried, armed with a dishcloth, to staunch the spreading river of milk. I sat inert and laboriously translated her words in my head.

Life is full of tiny epiphanies. She wiped and wrung and wiped and wrung while I worked through the translation. I dawned with a new understanding—just as she rose from her hands and knees. I was pleased with my ability to translate the phrase, but better, the effort brought new meaning.

Directly translated, she had said, “Bleep. The milk fell from my hands.”

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