During all the craziness of trying to get our place painted, staged, boxed up, packed away, and cleaned, I have been the fore(wo)man. This means that sometimes I have to try and communicate with folks that don't speak any English, and sometimes, like yesterday, they speak only broken Mandarin since Cantonese is their first language.
Yesterday I was woken up at 730 by our painter who wanted the lo-down on what was all left to paint at the house. I walked him through the house in my shorts and tank top and told him in my very limited Mandarin what needed to be painted and with what color. He talked a lot. He said words that I've never heard before. They he made gestures that looked like driving a car and asked me to follow him into the hallway to the elevator. I didn't have any shoes on but thought that maybe he just wanted to make sure that I had a car so that I could get the rest of the paint we needed. Instead, he led me out to the street in my bare feet to his car and gestured for me to get in. Huh? I pointed to my feet and said in Mandarin, "I am not wearing any shoes!" Later, I realized what I actually said in Mandarin was, "I don't have any SHRIMP!" He became very confused. Then he pointed at the meter and said more things that I didn't understand. What?? Oh! You need coins! No problem - I'll get them for you. I ran inside to get some more clothes and shoes on and grab the coins.
He again gestured for me to get into the car, only this time he wanted me to drive! I brought a mini bottle of paint and asked if he wanted me to take him to get more paint. Yes. Ahhhh ok, now I am getting somewhere! I begin driving us to the paint store (good thing I can drive a stick shift) and after a few blocks he begins to yell confused things at me. I say that I'm turning up here in a block. This calms him for a second until I speed up on the next road. I told him I have 10 more blocks to go and then he gets really upset and makes me pull over and hands me his phone. I call the only person I can think of: my father in law. Turns out he just wanted me to park his car in a place that isn't metered. I drove us to the garage and we giggled all the way back to the house. Thank goodness for the Chinese sense of humor.