I always like the story that the term “man” as a slang gesture of affection or recognition came into vogue through jazz musicians of the 1940’s. That Gillespie, Parker and Miles used the term to destroy the humiliating use of “boy” is a powerful demonstration. We’ll just make up our own shit. Better, let’s call ourselves what we are.

I read this comment from El Chavo and it jarred a few memories:

BTW, I hate that fake bonding shit: I get some people in my work environment calling me ‘bro’ or even ‘brother,’ like I know them or something. It makes me want to punch them.

Made me think how slang can be a funny thing. How that term “man” has come to bother the fuck out of me. Even in Havana, being called “mano” (short for brother) bothered me to no end, cause dudes just hawked shit at me continuously. Had to use all my spidey senses walking along el malecon. I have been called man thousands of times, it’s how we talk. But sometimes, I wanna stab a dude. Maybe, its just about context. This is what I mean:

A while back for a job interview, I got to downtown, on Main I believe, I get up to the 8th floor and wait in the lobby with others. A young man and a young woman, clean cut, smile at me and we can all hear parts of the interview being conducted. It is oh so pleasant. She seems nervous and fidgets a bit. He reads a Newsweek. I don’t sweat that stuff. I get the job or I don’t. There are others. I once lived a whole year on an income of $700 a month pushing paper part-time for the California Attorney for Criminal Justice. Rent, car, gas, food all for 7 bills. This was about 10 yrs ago. Those were the days.

Anyway, she goes in and it is all so formal.

“Hello, how are you, uh… Jody?”

Fine, how are you doing?

Then the other guy goes in:

“Good morning… Steve. Nice to meet you.”

Good morning, sir.

The guy in charge of the tutoring program is from Central America, I can tell by his accent and it is later confirmed during my interview.

So, I get in. I’m in work attire, like the others, y know slack and dress shirt, the basics and I am greeted with…

“Hey, man.”

Just something about the way he said it. What the fuck? Maybe if we were waiting for the 30 on Floral and Marianna or putting gas in our rides. I don’t see it. I did see a slight snarl. I ain’t no master of etiquette but I thought this was a job interview?

One time I was in Queretaro, I love it there. The locals are gettin bent because many chilangos are flooding the little historical city. Many are finding el D.F. too crazy but I find it more relaxing than L.A. Yup, I said it. Yes in Qro there are more fresas than in any shortcake I’ve eaten. But, I like it there.

So I’m waiting to ask about a play at a local theater and there is this English-speaking family enquiring about the show. The guy in the information booth also speaks English. In a very formal manner.

“Yes, sir. If you purchase five tickets, we can offer you 2 additional ones at no additional cost.”

Wow, says the father. What a great deal.

“Yes, sir. I believe you and your family will enjoy the play. Are you familiar with the playwright?…”

And it went on for awhile, it was quite a performance. The family leaves and the guy sees me and says, “What’s up, man?”

I look around just to verify he was talking to me. Sure I’m in t-shirt and jeans, but that family looked like they just woke up, rolled out of their sleeping bags and ran over here. I tense up and say, “No… (I stare at him for 3 seconds) …Man.”

Oh, the play was good. My friend Natalie played this hooker, it was funny.

So, last week I’m at Fresh N Easy off of Main in Hellhambra. They have made some changes cuz some of their shit is cheaper. Wheat bread for a buck 20 or those cases of water for like 3 bills. I ask about the soy yoghurts. Same price as Trader Joe’s but here they have blueberry. Well, the containers read soy yoghurt but they don’t claim to be non-dairy or vegan, and many products do. Could soy yoghurt contain casienate or some shit from a cow’s intestinal lining? I see a guy with a green shirt and apron. He is talking to a woman. I get near. Their conversation is loaded with proper pronunciation. I got no problem with that. Formal and professional. I could deal with that.

“Well, ma’am, I would have to call our main office and ask for you.”

Young man, you have been so gracious and patient in answering all my questions. You have a wonderful day.

“Well, ma’am, we are here to provide you with excellent service.”

Good Golly Miss Molly! Sounds like customer service for the phone company. I step up to ask my innocent “is this vegan?” question and I get greeted with…

“Hey, man…”

I breathed LOUDLY, stared at him and asked my question.

Is that supposed to be some gesture of recognition? How can you recognize me when you don’t know me? Did I miss the invite to the bro-fest? 5 seconds ago you were Johnny Appleseed and now you Johnny Chingas? Spare me the bromance and tell me if the yoghurt has cow shit in it! I just had my fill.

El Chavo, you want to punch em in the face? I wanna punch their gramma in the face and their kids. Wait, you gotta have balls to have kids, right? Man!

It gets to me a bit, no? Some friends think I’m overreacting, but I don’t know, MAN.