Ordering Food is Hard

Due to some fairly inept food planning on my part, I’ve eaten through all the food in my house four days ahead of my move out. I’ve been kind of lazy about going to the supermarket, so I ordered take-out the last two nights. The issue with ordering take-out is that it requires me to talk on the phone in Spanish, which is much harder than talking to someone in person. I can’t hear as well or guess responses based on the other person’s facial cues. The last time I had to speak Spanish on the phone was a month ago when I booked the hotel Jeet and I stayed at and it ended in humiliating defeat (the person switching to English).

Last night I was ready for my next attempt at phone Spanish. I called an Italian restaurant and here’s how the conversation went down:

Guy: Hola. San Ceferino.
Me: ¿Hola. Puedo poner un orden para llevar? [Can I put[sic] an order to carry out?]
Guy: Sí. ¿Que dirección? [Yes. What address?]
Me: No, para llevar. [No, to carry out.]
Guy: Bueno, necesito tu dirección. [Right, I need your address.]
Me: Umm… voy a vos. [Umm… I go to you.]
Guy: Ohhh, bueno. [Ohhh, alright.]

So I put in the order and go down there to pick up my food.

Me: Hola. Llamé. [Hi. I called.]
Guy: ¿Ah, hablas muy poco espanol? [Ah, you speak very little Spanish?]
Me: (in my head) Hey! I’m trying!
Me: Mas o menos. [Sort of.]
Guy: Ah, sí. [Ah, yes.]
Me: ¿Como se llama esto? ¿No es “para llevar?” [What do you call this? It’s not “para llevar?”]
Guy: No, decimos “delivery.” [No, we say “delivery”] “Delivery” it’s the same, no?
Me: ¿Esto es “delivery?” ¿Cuando estoy aca? [This is “delivery?” When I’m here?]
Guy: Yes, delivery.

So according to what this guy was saying “para llevar” (for to carry) means delivery and “delivery” is what they call take-out. This couldn’t be right. There was another guy there who turned out to be American and was fluent in Spanish (purely to shame me, I’m sure) and he says, “Yeah, they just call it delivery.” I said to the guy, “No, me picking up. What do they call that?’ The American guy understood and asks the chef in back. After a brief exchange, he comes back to me and says, “He says they don’t have a word for it. They just call it an order.” Okay, I’m pretty sure that’s not right either, but I didn’t think I was going to get to the bottom of things in this place, so I left and ate a lot of Italian food while watching Jersey Shore.

Having learned from last night’s “para llevar” fiasco, tonight I called a Chinese restaurant careful to not say “para llevar” but they still kept asking for my address until I somehow conveyed that I was going to go to them. I thought it was smooth sailing from there, but then we got to this:

Girl: Tu total es treinta y uno. [Your total is 31.]
Me: Sí. [Yes.]
Girl: ¿Cuanto me pagas? [How much do you pay me?]
Me: ¿Umm… treinta y uno? [Umm… 31?]
Girl: (impatiently) ¿No, como? [No, how?]
Me: ¿En efectivo? [In cash?]
Girl: ¿Si, pero cuanto? [Yes, but how much?]

At this point I realize what’s going on. She wants to know what denominations I’m going to pay with because she wants to make sure she has the right change to give me. I’d seen this occasionally in Peru. But now I was confused because I didn’t know how to say “exact change” so I just said 31 again, which annoyed her. Finally we came to an understanding and I ate Chinese food and watched The Fighter (which is admittedly a less complementary pairing than I’d done last night).

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