It is always unsettling when life's big changes sneak up on you. One day you can do 10 push-ups and the next day your shoulder goes snap, crackle, pop when you raise your arm.
Or how about this: You drive through your neighborhood McDonald's and get a Diet Coke, and two days later you drive by and it has been bulldozed to the ground. They super un-sized it.
Or how about this: You go to bed an English-speaking person and when you wake up you're a Spanish-speaking person. At least JCPenney thinks I am.
This summer I started receiving advertisements in Spanish. I thought they were simply reaching out to our multi-ethnic neighborhood.
I halfway expected to get something in Chinese, Russian or Farsi to accommodate all the neighbors, but the advertisements just kept coming in Spanish.
"Look at this," I said, trying to impress the youngest with my second-language skills. "Penney's is having a fire sale. Half off! I didn't even know they had a fire. Probably a lot of stuff with smoke and water damage."
She grabbed the card from my hands and looked at it. "It's not a fire sale, Mom," she snapped. "It says it's a red hot sale."
Well, forgive me for having a learning curve. Maybe immersion isn't for everybody.
So the mailings keep coming and I keep reading and I'm feeling pretty good about my Spanish-speaking self (at least when the kid isn't around), then last week I get a bill.
It has all the usual inserts: "Protegete con el Spray Pepper Defense. Facil de usar." Comes in pink, black and yellow. Only $9.99 and I think about it, but I already have one. There is also an insert for cortinas hechas a la medida. They look nice, but I'm not in the market for any cortinas.
So I put the resumen de la cuenta on the bill pile and realize hey! wait a minute that said my cargos was $49.48 and I hadn't made a cargos!
I looked at the bill a second time and realized the entire thing was in Spanish, but I've been getting so many mailings in Spanish that I hadn't noticed.
Given my translation skills, and the questionable cargos, I deemed the situation in need of attention and called the 1-800 number.
A voice answered in Spanish. The voice said, "GraciasporvocacionaJCPenneys .Hablaraunrepresentantede serviciodecliente eninglésporfavor."
Granted, that's a rough paraphrase, because the voice was talking at a rate of 3 billion words a minute, but you get the idea that is a dilemma. You call a number to see if you can't get your bill in English, but to get it in English, you first have to get past the Spanish. I did what irritated consumers always do, I just started pushing buttons.
A guy who spoke the universal language of credit card bills answered the phone and said he would mark a box that would send future mailings in English.
I said, "Bueno and gracias," but I don't think he was too impressed, as he probably just had lunch with the woman who recorded the greeting in Spanish at warp speed.
The entire episode has been very educational. I feel well equipped to face the future in that I can now decode a credit card statement and spot a sale in two languages.