The waitress had just refilled my coffee cup when a familiar character slid into the opposite side of the coffee shop booth. It was my old buddy, Eb Griper.
I'm not saying Eb has a sour personality but he can curdle a pitcher of cream just by staring at it.
"Morning, Eb," I offered.
"Yep," Eb said glumly.
"Is there any other kind?"
"Boy," I said, "you can make a Friday seem like a Monday. Why so glum?"
"And what did Hilda do to upset you today?"
Eb sighed. "She decided that I need more culture."
"And you believe you don't need more culture?"
Eb was sitting on the pity potty this morning. "And what is Hilda doing to culturally enlighten you?"
"She's making me take Spanish lessons with her."
"Bueno! Mucho bueno!" I teased.
"Well, you can stick your bueno where the sun"
"Sol," I interrupted. "It's sol, not sun."
Eb glared at me. "Why do I waste my time with you?" he moaned.
"Because I always bring a ray of sol into your life," I kidded.
"Seriously, Eb, you and Hilda are learning Spanish. That's great. Where?"
"Night class at the community college."
"And what have you learned so far?"
"Cmo est usted?"
"I'm doing just fine," I replied. "Thanks for asking. But how much Spanish have you learned so far?"
"'Cmo est usted?'" Eb snapped. "That's it. You can't teach old dogs new tricks."
"Come on, Eb," I said encouragingly. "I'll bet you and Hilda can learn a lot more if you work together!"
Eb looked at my quizzically. "Why?"
"Don't you mean, 'Por qu?'"
"Knock it off," Eb demanded. "I don't need to grow closer to Hilda and I don't need to learn Spanish and I don't need any of your smart remarks.'
"Come on, Eb, I was just trying to put some sugar on the medicine. You know, the way the world is changing learning another language is a smart thing to do."
Eb rolled his eyes.
"Seriously," I said, "while walking downtown a couple of years ago a Mexican man asked me for directions to a gas station"
"How did you know what he wanted? You don't speak Spanish!"
"Well, when he said, 'Pardon. Where gasolina?' I assumed he wanted to know where he could buy gasoline."
"I knew what he wanted but it was very difficult to help him. I wished I had known how to speak Spanish."
"So were you able to direct him to a gas station?"
"So then what's the big deal about being able to speak another language?"
"If we could have had a real conversation perhaps I could have made a new friend."
Eb glared at me. "Who needs more friends? Especially friends who don't speak American?"
"I give up, Eb. Maybe you are too old to learn new tricks. From now on I'm calling you a perro viejo."
"What's that," Eb asked.
"It means Old Dog in Spanish."
Eb gave me another of his nasty stares. "Wait a minute," he said. "I do remember something I learned in Spanish class: Eres un tonto."
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"It means you're an idiot."