Fried Chicken and Meth: a leadership essay

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The wife and I are on the bleeding edge of pop culture—for 2012.


The past few months we’ve been chowing down at the all-you-can-eat Netflix buffet of Breaking Bad, the best show on television (ca. 24 months ago).


For a spanish language nerd, there’s a lot to love here. Most notably, the frequent lengthy conversaciones en Español with nary a subtitle in sight. More specifically, in Season 4, episode 6, there were four examples of leadership—el liderazgo—that can help you lead more effectively on your bilingual and multicultural jobsite.


“Necesito ayuda limpio.”

As drug kingpin Gustavo Fring removes Jesse from the meth superlab—and from Walter’s oversight—beneath La Lavandería Brillante, Walter pushes back. As you’d expect, it takes a lot of codo-grease to run a clean meth lab. Walter won’t do it alone. So he recruits three Hispanic women from la lavandería upstairs to scrub down the cooking gear. Flashing a fistful of $20’s, he stammers, “Necesito ayuda limpio . . . Necesito ayuda limpio. Dinero.


In a classic example of effort overcoming flawless execution, his gringousI need help clean. Money.” gets the job done. The women join him in the narco-bunker and start scrubbing away.


In Red Angle Construction Spanish programs, we introduce Necesito (I need) and Necesitas (you need) early on. A few tenses of this one verb can cover a lot of territory.


Can you translate these following instructions?

(Hint: lo means it.)

  • Necesitas instalarlo.
  • Necesitas moverlo.
  • Necesitas usarlo.
  • Necesitas repararlo.



“They’re taking the next bus back to Honduras.”

After Walter’s successful, “Necesito ayuda limpio,” stunt, Tyrus the henchman leads the three mujeres away from the la lavandería.

“Where are you taking them?” Walter asks.

“They’re taking the next bus back to Honduras.”


Three quick sub-points here.

First, this is an important script choice because Mexico would have been simpler.

“They’re taking the next bus back to Mexico.”




Because they are brown-skinned women speaking Spanish working in an industrial laundromat in New Mexico—surely they’re Mexican. Right?


Incorrecto, baboso.


FYI: they are not all Mexican. Sure, the majority of Hispanics in the U.S.A. are Mexican, but don’t assume. You know what they say about assumptions, don’t you?

Ask, “¿De dónde eres “ Where are you from? and gain more credibility.


Second, here is Honduras on a map of Central America:



Third, yes—there is an easy way to remember the countries in Central America. I use a stupid mnemonic device. At the risk of losing any linguistic and geographic credibility . . . here it is: Gary Busey eats hard nuts cuz . . . Panama.

  • Gary……………… Guatemala
  • Busey……………. Belize
  • Eats………………. El Salvador
  • Hard……………… Honduras
  • Nuts………………. Nicaragua
  • Cuz………………… Costa Rica
  • Panama………….. Panama

Nope—no one really knows why Gary Busey eats hard nuts.






¿Estás listo para platicar?

The Mexican cartel has been attempting to get Gus Fring back at the negotiating table. They knock off a refrigerated Los Pollos Hermanos truck and steal one fry batter bucket that’s concealing the legendary blue meth. They then give it to a couple of junkies knowing crusty Mike—and his new sidekick Jesse Pinkman—will track it down.


When Mike finds the Los Pollos bucket, the lid reads:

¿Estás listo para platicar?

Are you ready to chat?


When workers (those I know well) are chatting it up like schoolgirls on the job, I’ll use this line:

Más trabajando y menos platicando, chicas.

More working and less chatting, girls.


Handle with care, but don’t be afraid to use it—after you’ve developed a relationship. Spanish-speakers can appreciate a little wiseassery just like the rest of the construction site.



“I like to think I see things in people.”

This is Gus’ response to Jesse’s pregunta, “Why me?


You should like to think you see things in people. Especially the Hispanic workers on your site. Some of my greatest successes on the jobsite have come from seeing things in Hispanic workers and trusting them with leadership and management responsibilities.


Give them a chance.

Start a conversación.

Necesitas platicar.


About what?


Start with Metástasis—the shot-for-shot remake of Breaking Bad created en Español.





Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training, consulting and eLearning firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.

Categories: Construction Spanish, Jobsite Leadership

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