Eliseo and the ‘Way’ of the Rooster

RoosterOne significant thing I’ve learned from experience is that sometimes a little bluffing on the right topic can make a connection and allow you to bond with someone for life. That is, as long as you genuinely care about the other person in some way. What follows is a story from my 20′s that brings that home. Have you ever listened to Ranchera music? This is the kind they play at weddings, for example, in the Oscar award winning movie Babel. It has big harmonies and ethnic instruments including Spanish guitar and bass. the lyrics are very regional and ethnic as well in their content. One classic song you might know of in this genre is Cielito Lindo.

Anyway, about ten years ago I was running a small Pizza Hut and the cooks in the back were playing some very loudly. It irritated me at first, but then I thought: “Hmmm, I’m new here and this is a chance to win over the cooks by bonding with the music.”

I went back to Eliseo, the dough master, and grooved a bit to the beat: “Bump Bump Bump.” I said to him, “Eliseo, what is this song about. I like it!” Of course I was acting. I found it camp to the extreme. Eliseo looked up from the dough mixer, his dark shirt spotted with flour all over. He had a look of utter amazement that a “gringo” such as myself would be interested in Ranchera music.

“Wussup way?” (I’ve been told that “way” means a cow’s testicles. It is something guys call each other the same way we English speakers might call each other “animal” or “wild man.”) He said. “Do you know what this song is about ‘essay’?” (pardon my phonetic spellings) He went on to say: “This song is about the rooster!” He was proud in the chin as he continued. “The rooster gets all the chickens in the henhouse ‘way’.”

This was on the verge of side-splittingly funny to me, but I just chuckled respectfully and said, “Really? Very cool. I like the music. Can you let me borrow the CD?”

Eliseo and I were tight after that, giving daily high fives and 3 part handshakes. I never let on that I really hated Ranchera music. In fact, come to think of it, he never loaned me the CD either. Maybe he was wise to my scheme. Maybe it didn’t matter that I lied about liking it. Maybe it was enough just that the guy up front tried to connect with a colorful yet often invisible cook in the back. A cook who daily in the back of a Pizza Hut made dough and listened to otherwise encrypted lyrics about ‘the way of the rooster.’ I’m not saying I deserve any praise, but I’d like to think that after that day, Eliseo felt a little less invisible when I was running the shift.