By Adriana Adarve – Owner of Adarve Translations
Ah, it’s one of those days! You just woke up, but something doesn’t feel right. What is it? You wonder. Then you realize that you actually woke up grumpy, sad, depressed or simply with a total lack of energy. Worse than that, you also realize that a fairly busy day awaits you—getting the kids ready for school, there is a pile of documents that need your attention, dozens of customers seeking your services and whose needs have that met to perfection! What to do? How to cope?
There is an expression in my country, Colombia, which says, “hoy no está el palo para hacer cucharas” (today, the stick is not good to make spoons [with]). This expression can be used in several contexts, one of which is when someone is in a bad temper and unavailable. Another context would be when the person is extremely tired, bored or depressed and his/her situation does not allow him/her to do other things (i.e., the situation does not allow for some things to happen).
Let’s take the first case: we are in a bad mood and someone—one of children, our spouse, a colleague, a friend… anyone—comes to us for help or to ask us a question we do not even want to think about answering. Sometimes, it is better not to open our mouth when we are angry. Instead of saying, “Out of here, do not bother me with your stuff or questions now” (which would actually be very rude), we simply say, “hoy no está el palo para hacer cucharas” (today, the stick is not good to make spoons [with]).
By using this expression, while scowling for good measure, we let the person know that we’re cranky and it is not the best time for us to be asked for anything, much less to have to answer questions. The expression indicates to the person talking to us that it is not good to try to impose a situation that cannot be resolved at that moment. Forcing the situation could only worsen our bad mood, or increase our anger to the point that we risk exploding like a volcano. The best thing here is to leave us alone, let things be or look elsewhere, or from another person, the answers needed, until our mood changes and everything returns to normal.
The second case involves someone who, at any given moment is too tired—exhausted, actually—bored or even depressed, and has no energy at all to do anything. This person could be faced with things to do, tasks to be performed, obligations, etc., that would be overwhelming in his/her current state of total lack of energy. So, with resignation, he/she ‘accepts’ his/her lack of energy and the fact that nothing can be done about it today. This person could then simply say, “hoy no está el palo para hacer cucharas” (today, the stick is not good to make spoons [with]), accept his/her mood and plump down on a sofa or armchair to spend the day reading or doing anything else that is most enjoyable.
The person could also allow him/herself to curl up and feel miserable for the rest of the day, with no care for nothing else. Here, the meaning of the expression is personal and permissive. That is, it allows the person to feel that it’s not worth forcing his/her situation, because it cannot be resolved due to their current mood. Forcing the situation to fulfill obligations that he/she doesn’t have enough strength to satisfy would only make things worse or aggravate his/her mood. It is better to leave things as they are until the mood improves and goes back to normal.
As I mentioned earlier, this expression comes from Colombia. It does not exist in any other Spanish-speaking country. Nor is there any similar or equivalent expression in English or French. In Colombia, within the family, with our friends and even with acquaintances, “hoy no está el palo para hacer cucharas” (today, the stick is not good to make spoons [with]) is self-explanatory. It saves from having to give further explanations about our mood when the least we want to do is, precisely, to give such explanations.
But what happens when we are in a bad mood or our state of mind doesn’t allow us to face or meet our customers’ needs?
In this case, of course, it is not a good idea to tell our customers, “hoy no está el palo para hacer cucharas” (today, the stick is not good to make spoons [with]) and leave them hanging without knowing what to do or how to handle the situation. That is, it is not a good idea, unless we want to commit career suicide. There are thousands of ways to avoid missteps in professional situations. I really believe that the best thing to do is to take a deep breath, recognize our state of mind and avoid at all costs being rude to our customers.
In my personal case, it has not always been easy to disconnect myself from my clients when I know they need me. Nonetheless, with practice and patience I have managed to be able to tell myself, “hoy no está el palo para hacer cucharas” (today, the stick is not good to make spoons [with]) and disconnect from my job duties for a few days until my mood allows me again to be the service provider my clients expect; that is, until the stick is good again to make spoons with!
All the best,
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Author: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluri-cultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual.