Monday, August 20, 2007

Beard Confessions

I’ve never understood why criminal confessions were so hard to get.

I mean, why does getting the truth out of someone always involve some torturous combination of physical brutality, psychological attack, inhumane intimidation, threats on family, sleep deprivation and ridiculous good cop/ bad cop routines (at least, in the Hollywood films and in U.S. off-shore detainment facilities)?

I just don’t get it.

Getting someone to confess their most hidden, unspeakable inner secrets is easy.

I do it every day.

All you need is a broth of new culture, a pinch of mild alienation, one heaping fingernail full of introspection, and a foreign language to translate the flavor. That’s it.

I mean, if I can do it, anyone can. I was never trained in the art of interrogation. I’m just a high-poverty-line ESL teacher. And, yet, just this week, I learned about a Taiwanese man’s forbidden liaisons with a Chinese woman of royalty, a Korean gal’s botched reconstructive facial surgery, and a Saudi Arabian’s story of claiming his wife upon first sight at age five and ‘re-having’ her at age 14.

And, it’s true. Speaking a second language allows you to say (and even think) things you would never feel comfortable or permitted to express in your own language.

That’s why I wasn’t at all surprised today by any of my students’ summaries of their respective childhoods. (We were practicing the form: “I used to…”)

“He used to jog, but now he watches 'American Idol'.”

(Aww… that’s cute.)

“When she was young, she used to collect stamps, but now she doesn’t. And she used to love 8-Man. He was a power magic cartoon hero. But now she doesn’t like.”

(Aww… that’s cute.)

“He used to use scissors cut worms. He used to pretend like he famous cooking chef… But, now he doesn’t cut worms. However, he is good at cooking.”

(Aww…that’s cute… in an I-used-to-fantasize-about-sea-urchins kind of way)

“She used to have a beard. She used to feel embarrassed because of beard.”

(Aww…that’s what? A beard? Why, that’s just trauma with fewer calories.)

“Yes, uh, she used to have a beard. This beard it was very dirty and it make.. uh.. made many problems. It is- was very noisy and it sometimes make-made messy. But now, she doesn’t have a beard.”

As a compassionate teacher aware of the unintentionally-revealed secrets exposed when conversing in a foreign language, I nodded and smiled, thinking to myself what an adept extractor of buried confessions I was. Yes, I had uncovered a poor Turkish woman’s young struggle with facial hair. So there, Guantanamo Bay questioners! Eat my graceful, torture-less tact!

Of course, now as I’m beginning to get my resume together for the secret service interrogation job I have always dreamed of having, I’m beginning to doubt my super-extraordinary, clandestine intelligence-unveiling abilities.

After all, when a Mexican from Guadalajara says “beard,” he probably just means “bird”….

And… unfortunately, I can’t think of a single Intelligence Agency that would be impressed by an interrogator with unmatched ability to expose past pet information.

(“Yeah, he might be planning to simultaneously detonate bombs in every Starbucks around the globe, but I’m not sure. What I do know, though, is that he had a guinea pig named Poinky when he was eight.”)

I’m ready to admit that I might not meet the qualifications to become a successful interrogator.

My aspirations of becoming an animal psychiatrist, however, are not yet squashed.

(“As a young parakeet, he was once called a mustache. That’s when all of the psychological abuse began…”)


frustrated writer said...

when I was young I used to have a bearded bird but now he shaves. The real question is how effective is your use of a camera, plucked chickens, and chipolte sauce? Just think of the possibilities when you started to extract deep dark pet secrets from your students! Glad to see you back and posting!

Cap'n Rich said...

Aw...that's cute...

With your ability to twist words and sense of comedy you will fit right in with those clowns in Washington.

How dost thou happen to have such a complete mastery of the English language? It is clearly reflected in your post graduate students quaint replies.

-c, I get to talk like this because I'm a real native born hillbilly.

Great post; you're the most!

dingobear said...

Have confidence in your interrogatory (hey, is that a word?) skills and I'm sure the Agency will hire you on the spot.

However, your post does kinda make me worry about what deep, dark secrets I unknowingly revealed in Swedish class this morning ...

-c said...

frustrated- chickens and cameras have always been my staples. But.. the chipotle... that could lead to my mastery! Thanks!

cap'n- Ah ha! Finally my beliefs confirmed: there are clowns in Washington!

dingobear- Your Swedish teacher may already know too much. Beware:)

chuBchuBB said...

A word of wisdom for the weary interrogator: also avoid questions like, "What is your most embarrassing moment?"

By opening up this line of questioning, I had a student confess during conversation class that he had once accidentally sent his wife a "love" text message that was intended for his girlfriend...hmmmm.

Yep, sounds like a good conversation topic to me ;-) I don't think I've ever been so uncomfortable.

C.- Keep up the blogging. I love it!