I have been speaking it ever since the big game. It has slipped into my vocabulary like a piņa into my colada. Yep, I’m talkin’ Jamaican, mon!
It all happened during one of the commercial breaks, when I saw the Volkswagen ad about a man named Dave from Minnesota who is speaking in a Jamaican accent as he tries to cheer up his fellow officemates. From the guy in the elevator who hates Mondays to the boss at a depressing office meeting, this easygoing optimistic fellow bestows positive comments in Jamaican patois that eventually has them assuming the island accent, as well, with its accompanying smiles and cheerful attitude.
I knew this ad would have an effect on me when immediately after the commercial I turned to my wife and said, “Hey, mon, would you be a-passin’ da chips me way?” She indulgently smiled and ignored me, somehow knowing that this was just the beginning of yet another journey of her husband into a moderately to severely annoying behavior pattern.
I couldn’t wait for Monday to come. In fact, the next morning I was looking for something to go wrong just so I could slip into my positive Jamaican persona.
So, as I sat at the table eating my bowl of Cheerios, I purposely spilled it into my lap so that I could happily announce to my wife, “No worries, mon, everyting will be all right!” She simply replied, “Don’t forget to put your pajamas in the wash,” as I countered with, “You know what this room needs? A smile!”
As the day went on, I looked for excuses to slide into my newfound linguistic flair. I didn’t have to wait long. While preparing lunch, I saw my wife struggling to open a package of Swiss cheese. Seeing her frustration, I gave her some encouragement, telling her, “Don’t worry sister … the smelly cheese come soon.”
I did enjoy the sandwich she made for me. “Wicked sandwich, Mrs. Diane!” I called out to her, “I bet this is the best sandwich in the state of Illinois … the Land of Lincoln!” I’m not sure, but I think she tried to hide a hint of a grin as she walked away.
Later she went downstairs to her project room. After a while, I went down to see how she was doing. She was sewing a quilt, but I noticed a look of exasperation on her face. I sneaked up behind her and whispered in her ear, “Diane … just turn that frown the other way around … we don’t need no clouds on a sunny day!” Again, I think she fought to suppress a smile.
By this time, my accent was sounding pretty authentic. I even launched into song, walking around the house crooning the old Partridge Family melody in a Jamaican Cliff Richard accent, “Travelin’ along, there’s a song that we’re singing … come on, get happy!” I’m sure I even heard my wife humming the tune.
I must admit that my days seemed a lot more happy and cheerful simply because of the way I was talking. Although she wasn’t outwardly showing it, I think my wife was finally warming up to my newly honed dialectical prowess.
But then something happened that rocked my Caribbean world. A few days later, I was watching a Chicago Blackhawks game and was loudly chewing out a player for making a poor pass when my wife peeked her head into the living room and called out to me, “Chill, Mr. Mike … r-r-r-r-espect the hockey mon.” Why, it would appear that my wife was actually beginning to talk the talk!
Thus, the cool runnings of our lives are flowing more freely. Thanks to our Jamaican friends, we have learned to be a little more patient, a little more positive, a little more happy. So now I pass it on to you … Peace be the journey, reader mon!
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He currently has no worries and is test-driving a VW Beetle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.