“You Know Who doesn’t know what you are saying, does he, Mommy?” Thing 3 asked me from the back seat the other day.
“Why no, as a matter of fact, I do not think he has the faintest idea what I just said.”
“Let’s just call him Voldemort. He’ll never get that reference.” Thing 1 said in Portuguese.
Mr. Understanding grew up in a family coached in speaking in code in public places. Likewise, we have coached our children to do the same in front of others who just might understand whatever foreign language we are speaking. We had been speaking Portuguese in front of the driver until we figured out that really, he can’t understand our English. So now we speak English but continue to call him Voldemort.
In Mexico we employed a string of about 25 maids. This is a conservative figure. I used to be able to recite all their names but gave up after the twentieth walked out the door. Some stayed a month, others a year, others a day. During that same six and a half year period, however, we had only one driver Leopoldo, or Polo for short. A former taxi driver, he knew el D. F. like the back of his hand. I was only, ever, able to show him one short cut. He was a driving ace – not one accident. After a few too many San Lunes no shows (Sunday evening drinking sprees leading to crippling Monday morning hangovers), he and I had a Come To Jesus talk and that was the end of that. He was never late again without having called first to advise me. In the course of our relationship, I am sure he began to understand English which was handy when I wanted to convey something to him indirectly, such as, “I will fire the driver if I catch him skimming the gas money. I know the trick of getting the gas station attendant to write a receipt in a larger amount.” Naturally, he overheard a lot of private conversations as well and was privy to many a family moment, such as driving two of my babies home from the hospital. All in all, it was a relationship that worked and when we left Mexico we gave Polo a beater car. We still keep in touch.
This morning I sent My Three Things off on their bicycles in the rain at 6:50 this morning to catch the school bus at the clubhouse half a mile away as Voldemort was a no show. Yesterday he had been late but had called Mr. U’s driver to come early. After repeated phone calls and text messages with no answer, I threw rain capes on the kids. Thing 2 strapped his tenor sax to his back and shoved his backpack in the bike basket. Yes, they could of walked but time was atickin’ and the memory of my mother making me carry an alto sax up a nearly vertical hill when I was in 5th grade, frequently in the rain, was still fresh. (I later switched to the trumpet but the damage had been done). Last week, Voldemort was late 3 times.
I took our dog out this morning for a constitutional and lo and behold, there was a silver minivan in front of the house with Voldermort asleep (?) at the wheel. After inquiring as to the delay – he mimicked a 4 car pileup – and where was his cell phone – at home – I told him to sit there until I decided was going out. My patience restored, we went across town in search of a book. This was fine. Until the gas gauge pinged on empty, my cell phone was dying, and he said he knew where he was going but, in fact, did not.
ADIOS, muchacho! You Know Who (Yu Nao Hu) is no Polo and my patience is at an end. Please keep the driver tally for me but we’ve already decided not to memorize their names. They are all going to be called Voldemort.