Storytelling at Work
January 29, 2019
A Jar of Minced Garlic

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So there I am at La Comer, San Miguel de Allende;s biggest grocery store, having just located the papayas, soymilk, and rice cakes, when I look down at my list and notice there is an item I've still not found -- an item my dear, sweet wife needed badly in order to prepare her special dinner tonight: MINCED GARLIC.

Unable to remember the Spanish word for "garlic", I realize there's no point asking anyone in the store to direct me to the proper aisle for an item I can't name, so I begin aimlessly wandering around the largest grocery store in San Miguel, as I attempt to identify what category of food "minced garlic" might belong to: Condiment? Vegetable? Spice?

"Garlic, garlic, garlic," I begin chanting under my breath, but no Spanish equivalent comes to mind. Nada. Zero. Zippo. This goes on for way too long. And then... praise the Lord...and pass the guacamole, appearing from who knows where... badaboom, badabing... it comes to me in a flash: "OJO!" Yes, OJO! That's it! The three-letter word for garlic in espanol has somehow bubbled to the surface of what is left of my mind.

Brilliant! Genius! Ojo!

My energy newly soaring, I'm an hombre on a mission and though I have no clue how to say "minced" in Spanish, I don't really care. I mean, how difficult could it be to find the fourth item on my list -- especially since I know the word for "small" in Spanish is "pequeno" which is almost exactly the same thing as "minced". Right?

Boom! Claro! Excelente!

Not wanting to spend the rest of my day wandering aimlessly around the largest grocery store in San Miguel, I set off to find the nearest clerk, which I accomplish in less than a minuto. There, only 30 feet away, stocking cereal in Aisle 5, is Javier.

"Senor," I say, respectfully, "una pregunta, por favor. Donde esta los ojos pequenos en una botella?"

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Javier just stares at me. That's it. He does nothing. He says nothing. He just stands there with a faraway look in his eye -- somewhere near New Jersey.

"Dude," I think to myself. "Mine is not that difficult a question. All I'm asking is where the freaking minced garlic is. You work in this store, right? One would think you'd have at least SOME idea where the minced garlic is, no?"

Javier keeps looking at me, his head now cocked to one side -- a change of body language that moves me to begin making odd little hand gestures in the air -- my own, self-invented sign language for "minced garlic."

That's when it dawns on me that Javier must be a NEW employee at La Comer, confused as he was about the whereabouts of minced garlic. So I bid the boy a buen dia and keep on truckin', looking for SOMEONE with way more grocery store expertise than the obvious wet-behind-the-ears, Don Javier.

And I find her in a heartbeat in Aisle 6 -- the fabulous Guadalupe, she of the big brown eyes, hairnet, and cherry red lips.

"Senora," I begin, "por favor, donde esta los ojos pequenos en una botella?"

Guadalupe must have been Javier's older sister because she looks at me with that same blank look in her eye. Was she sleep-deprived? Probably, what with the eight brothers and sisters she had to take care of at home, her father working two jobs in Dallas, her mother diabetic.

Guadalupe continues looking at me, but no one is home. Not even close.

"Gracias, senorita, no problema," I manage to say, moving slowly away and returning to my random aisle-cruising technique from just a few minutes ago, when, lo and behold, there, smack dab in front of me, positioned perfectly at eye level, in Aisle 8 (the imported foods section), I see a guapo looking jar of minced garlic, it's label clearly lettered in English for people like me.

FINALLY, I have everything on my list! Hooray! Yahoo! Papayas? Check. Soy milk? Check. Rice cakes? Check. Not to mention the previously undetectable bottle of minced garlic. I'm done! Mission accomplished! Yes, I am a very good husband!

It was only on the ride home, having entered into some kind of Newton-under-the-manzana tree-trance, that I realized the Spanish word for garlic is "ajo", NOT "ojo" -- and that I had been asking perfectly innocent grocery clerks, for the past 20 minutes, if they could help me find "a jar of small eyeballs" -- even going so far as to make totally ridiculous hand gestures in space for what imagined to be the international symbol for minced garlic.

AJO! Not OJO! Welcome to my mundo.

More stories of mine in this book
This one, too
Taking it to the streets (and into homes)
The business version
What I learned from 26 second graders about storytelling

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at January 29, 2019 09:13 AM

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ABOUT THE BLOG

Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
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"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
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