I have a regular taxista who I call to get a ride home on days that I work out of the office. Her name is Guadalupe, and she is a lovely, middle-aged Mexican with a son who lives in Cancun. She became my go-to taxista after I broke up with my prior taxista, Carlos, when he stopped answering my calls. (what is this, “he’s just not that into you”, taxi-style???) Anyway, Guadalupe and I get along well because she a) is nice and amusing but doesn’t take any crap from anyone, b) doesn’t drive like a crazy person, and c) has a car with enough leg room for me and no funny-scented air fresheners. Our conversations are generally fairly smooth because I can practice my Spanish and at times, she her English, so we usually can figure things out between the two of us.
So today, Guadalupe & I were driving home when she suddenly remembered something to ask me. (below conversation all in Spanish)
G: “Oh! I have something I need help on from an English speaker and you speak English. Obviously!!”
J: “Uh, yes…?”
G: “I have a song that I really like, but I don’t know what it means. Maybe if I play it for you, you can tell me what it is about?” [proceeds to roll up car windows to create the proper listening environment] “Maybe you have heard it?”
J: [now filled with curiosity of what this magical song could possibly be] “Of course! Or at least I will try!”
G: [proceeds to carefully select song from CD player]
Car Audio System: “bumm bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Your own…bup bumm bup Personal…bup bumm bup Jesus…bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares…”
J: “Ahhh siiii, es una canción muy buena!!” I crowed in reinforcement, thrilled to learn that this most favorite song of hers was a classic Depeche Mode hit from the ’80s. I wasn’t quite sure whether she was looking for a literal translation or greater meaning, so I started loosely translating…
J: “Alguien quien oye tus… pues, como se dice cuando hablas con Dios?” (Someone who hears your… well, how do you say when you talk with God?)
G: “Oraciones.” (Prayers.)
J: “Si! Está hablando sobre alguien quien oye tus oraciones y te cuida.” (Yes! It’s talking about someone who hears your prayers and cares for you.)
I explained that although I had heard this song many times, I had never really thought about what it means… We agreed it was best to restart the song. After a full run through, I made a valiant attempt to explain the meaning of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in Spanish (sounds like a bad dream from a Spanish lit class), focusing on the fact that despite the frequent use of the word “Jesus”, “prayer” and “faith”, Depeche Mode should not be classified as a religious band.
J: “Pienso que la canción sea sobre otra opción en vez de Jesus para ayudarte cuando estás solo y necesitas soporte… otra opción como música u otra persona…? Que puedes tener algo personal para “reach out”…?” (I think the song is about another option instead of Jesus to help you when you are alone & need support…another option like music or another person? That you can have something personal to reach out to?)
I realized that even in English, I did not have a lot of insight into Depeche Mode’s thought processes. However, Guadalupe seemed to be pleased with my vague ideas, and we briefly discussed the differences between religious things and spiritual things, as evidenced by this “Personal Jesus” that one might have…
I reckon at this rate, it is only a matter of time before I am teaching a comparative religion class in Spanish at the local community college…