Mrs. Jacks, my elderly neighbor, is at my front door in a panic.
“I think they’re locked out but I don’t think she speaks any English.” She points to the house next door. Our new neighbors were born in China but now live and work in the United States.
“The wife?” I ask. This doesn’t make sense. I’ve spoken to her on occasion and her English is great. They moved to Cincinnati for her to complete her residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
I grab my coat and head next door.
It’s the coldest day we’ve had to date with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. It’s a shock to the system after our long Indian summer that stretched into early November. It’s a miserable day to be locked out of a warm house.
The older woman rambles to me in Chinese and I respond in English. Clearly, neither of us understand what the other is saying.
Oddly, I don’t see this as a problem.
When my husband and I honeymooned on the Costa del Sol in Spain, we often met people who spoke no English. My husband speaks Spanish, which worked out well, but even he needed to use the bathroom.
We were dining at a rustic café at an outside table that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. He’s excused himself minutes before a waiter arrived to take our order. I wanted the fish. So I did what came naturally. I sucked in my cheeks and brought my hands to my ears and flapped them back and forth to simulate fins.
I turn to my old friend, Charades. I put my hand in my pocket and pull out a “key” and “open” a door. I abruptly make a big X with my arms. Oh, this is going well! That was clearly, “No key.”
I start to fake shiver and rub my hands up and down my arms to indicate that I’m cold. I point to her, shiver and rub again and then point back to my house. Who needs a foreign language in schools these days? Make Improv acting a graduation requirement and students can communicate worldwide.
She nods. She lifts her hands and grabs an invisible steering wheel. She pretends to place a call. She hangs up the phone, grabs the wheel again before turning sharply to the right and heading home.
“So she’s on her way home?” Why I say this I have no idea. We’ve already established we can’t understand each other’s words.
“Okay, if you get cold.” Shiver. Shake. “Come on over.” Point. Point.
I don’t know if this counts as a random act of kindness or just random.