I don't know that I've ever mentioned this before, but I don't drive in Tegucigalpa. Not because I don't want to, but because we have a car with a manual transmission...and I can only drive automatic.
Jose's parents recently hired a new chauffer.
The first time he drove me, we started our conversation off with the normal things. He asked me where I was from. I told him from the US. (I mean, isn't that obvious?!) He said, "WHAT? I can't believe it! You speak Spanish so well!" I laughed. Because that's just not true. I do NOT sound like I am from Honduras when I speak Spanish. I knew he was just trying to flatter me, and it freaked me out a little. I mean, who was this man? He could be a kidnapper! Or a rapist!
The whole way to the store he kept complaining about the air conditioning. He didn't want it turned on. It's bad for your lungs, he told me. I said, "ummm, pretty sure it's not since I grew up in a house with air conditioning and my lungs are just fine." He kept on complaining anyway, saying that he wasn't acostumbrado, or accustomed, to the air conditioning. I was annoyed.
Eventually I noticed that the doors weren't locked. I asked him to lock the doors. He said, "Why? It's okay to leave them open." So I said, "Well, you obviously aren't acostumbrado to driving a Gringa in the car. It is NOT okay to leave the doors unlocked or the windows down while I am in the car." And you know what he said? "You're right, I'm not used to having a Gringa in the car. I am used to having women in the car...just not any as pretty as you."
So by then I was super uncomfortable. He had crossed the line. He worked for my father-in-law and it was NOT okay for him to be hitting on me. But what do I do, I wondered. If I say something like I am angry, he could drive me away and kidnap me. So I resorted to sending Jose text messages like "The new driver is going to kill me." "I'm pretty sure he's driving me the wrong way. Do you think he's kidnapping me?" and "I think he's going to rape me!" (I'm just a little dramatic, okay?)
It turned out that he wasn't a rapist/killer/kidnapper, and I ended up safely at home at the end of the day. But I asked Jose, "What do I do? How do I keep him from saying those things?" Jose and I decided that we wouldn't tell his father because we didn't want to make the driver angry with me. So, Jose said that I had to figure out a way to establish respect myself. I wasn't sure I was going to do it, but figured I could come up with something.
The next morning, he picked me up from home to bring me to the store. He got on the 2-way radio and said to my father-in-law, "Don Gustavo, I have the muchacha here with me..."
The muchacha?!?! Muchacha means girl in Spanish. But people also use muchacha to refer to their maids. For example, people will say "Excuse my messy house, I don't have a muchacha right now."
I saw my opportunity. I said, "The muchacha? Which muchacha?"
I stayed quiet and ignored him the rest of the way. When we arrived at my store I told him, "Look, the next time, my name is Hannah, not la muchacha. Ok?" He looked scared and apologized. He said he would refer to me as Señorita from now on. I said, "no, I'm not a señorita either. * I am a married woman." And I slammed the door.
As soon as I got into the store I felt horrible about the way I had spoken to him.
The next morning when he came to pick me up he greeted me with "Buenos dias Doña Hannah."** And he was quiet the rest of the way to the store.
Ahh, sweet victory. ;) It's just a little sad that I had to treat him that way to get respect.
* Señorita is used to refer to an unmarried woman/girl. Señora is the term used for married women.
** Doña Hannah is sort of like MRS. Hannah.