While on a project in Bogota, Colombia, I picked up Spanish.
Not much of it. 'Aprendo un poco espanol' as they say there. A few words here and there. Enough to manage basic navigation.
I could string basic sentences. I learned to ask for help ('Me necesita su ayuda'). Learned to say that I am a vegetarian and do not eat meat, fish or chicken (Soy vegetariano. No como carne, pescado o pollo).
Piddling Espanol, if you see what I mean.
The benefit of those lessons learned and much forgotten, accrued to me in Newark. I wanted to go from Terminal C of Newark Airport to Newark Penn Station to take the Path Train to New York City (Time Square, to be precise).
To go from Newark to Penn Station, you have to take Bus No. 62 (make sure it is going to Penn Station. The bus returning from Penn Station is also number 62). It will cost you a dollar and 50 cents to travel from Place A to Place B.
After a long wait of about 40 minutes, I espied Bus 62 arriving at the bus station. I confidently climbed in.
In the buses in US, you have to pay the money as you enter the bus. There is a ticketing machine and you have to insert exact change and collect your ticket. The hawk eyes of the driver watches you while you engage in this exercise. There are no conductors in the bus to collect your money as they have in India. Being driver is a lonely work out here.
As it happened, I had only 20 Dollars. That is not exact change, as you can see.
The machine did not even bother to accept my 20 Dollars. It simply rejected the same.
"You have to insert exact change" driver told me.
"Unfortunately I don't have change" I responded, "I have only 20 Dollars, thanks to the ATM machine in the airport"
"Then please get out of the bus", the driver told me.
Something about the way he spoke told me that he was a Latino. Most probably a mexican. So I switched to Spanish.
"Tengo dineros. Pero no tengo Cambios. Soy de la India y en Nuevo York por dos dias a visitar. Necesito ir a Neuvo York" I told him.
"Oh, usted habla Espanol. Pasa, pasa. Please get inside" the driver smiled and waved me in.
As they say, it pays to learn new language...