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.

11 thoughts on “Eliseo and the ‘Way’ of the Rooster

  1. When I worked in a restaurant in college, the cooks always played that kind of music. Everyone was always yelling for them to turn it off, but I always kind of liked it. I’ve always been interested in the Mexican culture. I think the language is beautiful and I just love the food, music, clothing and everything about it. I spent quite a bit of time in rural areas of Mexico and while there is indeed a lot of poverty, their culture and celebrations of life are quite rich.

    You should go to Mimi’s site http://mimilenox.blogblast.com and make a Peace Globe and add it to this post. Today is Blog Blast For Peace. This is a perfect entry!!!

    Jessica

  2. Thanks Jessica. I actually studied Spanish a few years later (1996) at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. It’s not all that rural, but as you know all areas are “muy acerca de” rural areas in Mexico. I’ve had a love affair with the culture for quite a few years now. Glad to see we have that in common. Oh, and thanks for the tip, I entered the globe contest. I had to do a little maneuvering though because the link you posted didn’t work. If anyone is interested, this address should work, it worked for me. Thanks again Jessica:

    http://mimilenox.blogspot.com/2007/06/eve-of-dona-nobis-pacem-queen-calls-for_05.html

  3. LOL. Good story! While I applaud your attempt to “bond” with the cook, I’m not sure the subterfuge was necessary. You could probably have won him just as well simply by asking about the music without pretending to like it. Then you wouldn’t risk being caught in a lie. Maybe you should have listened to that cd and you might have learned to really like the music?
    I’m with Jessica on having a fascination with Mexican culture (actually, I’d have to say “Hispanic” because it extends to several countries). One of my dearest friends is from Panama and tries to get me to learn Spanish, but I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. I can wrap my tongue around it! I can mimic like crazy.

  4. Oh yes. Definitely we share the big “R” for Mexican culture. Have you ever seen “Like Water for Chocolate?” Now there’s some storytelling!

  5. I enjoyed that story and the moral behind it.
    I always take some time out to greet and address all the people I work with or are around on a daily basis from the bottom of the totem pole to the top. You never know when you are going to need a friend or help. Plus when you are friends with everyone you don’t have to worry about your car getting keyed or rumors of you running around the office.

    Another note, I’m not a big ranchera music lover either. I hear alot of it around here though with all of the construction workers everywhere–no pun intended.

  6. I understand the need to resort to trickery to help a business run smoothly, but also agree with one point Shelly made, “You could probably have won him just as well simply by asking about the music without pretending to like it.” Perhaps, just the interest alone is sometimes enough. Hindsight, how I wish I had it as foresight!

    But the true point to this post is really that one person tried to connect, the other accepted it, and individuals are the link to peace! You made a difference in your lives that day, bigger than some will realize.

  7. Why thank you! You know it’s funny how blog posts can be interepreted differently. In a magazine article there is context and the voice makes sense in context. In a book, all the more. But on a blog, you’re constantly writing from different memories in life and sometimes the voice gets judged wrongly (not in a bad way). I should have put in the intro that this was not yesterday, it was almost 17 years ago! i’ve learned a lot about people since then, esp the part about being honest all the time :)

    great comment. thank you.

  8. Aha, here is the post… found it using your link!

    Interesting idea, to pretend to like something to make a connection with each other. I had an interesting conversation recently with another blogger. We were discussing the idea of ‘practicing’ something, like being nice, or being wry (if, say, you wanted to be seen as more wry), and it not being seen as sincere at first, but the more you practice, the more it is meant and the more it is ‘part of you’. His was a view that in this way one can improve oneself.

    And while I sort of see what he was saying, my arguement against it is that it’s kind of manipulative. But, in your case, it was for a good cause, so I’m not sure which way I come down on it.

    I take your point that it was 17 years ago. Maybe 17 years ago I wouldn’t even be questioning the actions…

    Anyway, I see how you link it in with peace, and it’s peace I’m interested in today….

    Good story

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