I actually wrote this in November for the newspaper. I've got a visitor here right now and haven't the time to write something fresh. However, this terror remains fresh...so it will work!
Ten minutes ago, my phone rang. My phone doesn’t ring all that often, and when it does, the name of the caller pops up because, of course, I know them. When a strange number comes through, I generally ignore it. Okay, first I go into in insta-freeze because I know that this means if I answer, I will have to speak French...on the phone... with somebody I probably don’t know and who is unaware that my telephone abilities are the merde! (It also brings on some bad memories of a time last year when I was threatened on the phone by a stranger) Telephone conversations are the most difficult. It’s even harder than listening to the news on the radio because people speak rapidly and generally more street language.
So this was the conversation…translated of course.
“Hi Delana…this is _______”.
“I’m so sorry, I have a difficult time on the telephone. This is who?”
________. The friend of ________. Do you remember me?
“No, because I still didn’t catch your name. I’m so sorry. Can you repeat it, please?”
Then follows a minute of completely incomprehensible French. It seemed that perhaps his name was Frederik and he might possibly have been a friend of my old friend Simon. It’s possible... except I didn’t remember anybody named Frederik…at all. And, in fact, I’m condensing this conversation. This ball was tossed back and forth many more times!
“OH! OKAY. I’ve got it now!”
Probably a dumb move, pretending to know who this mysterious caller was. But I was just too embarrassed to admit that I simply COULD NOT understand.
“So I’m just calling to see what’s new?”
So what do you tell a person that you’re pretending to know, what is new? When do you suppose the last time was that I had a conversation with this person? What might we have talked about? Do we know each other well? If we do, I’d better act like it. If we don’t, I should probably not be talking to him.
“Well, I’m a student at the University now”.
That remark just revealed to possible stranger danger that I believe I haven’t seen him since at least September. I crossed my fingers and waited to offend.
“Really? What are you taking?” (whew! Good stab in the dark!)
“French of course. And you, what are you doing these days?” (I’m bound to get some sort of clue from this question)
One more Bad Idea. Another minute or two of gibberish and I understood one word. Internship. Okay, probably somebody young. Maybe an old classmate from last year’s course. And I’m hearing a few speech patterns that seem remotely familiar.
“Oh yes? Tell me more.” (Eventually, this has got to come to me. Please give me some clue, some name, some event, something! Of course he probably already has… at least 10 times… but I’m too inadequate to understand)
Another several paragraphs follow and you guessed it, nothing!
“Listen, we don’t learn how to talk on the phone at the University. I’m horrible at it. Perhaps it would be better if we text. I can understand written words much better.”
“Ah, okay…blah, blah , blah....Skype blah, blah, blah, MSN blah blah blah blah”
I understood Skype. Yes, Skype! We can chat online on Skype!
So I proceed to text a perfect stranger my Skype address, just so I can figure out who the hell this person is. His name comes through requesting permission to talk. Ah…it’s Cedric! Of course, Cedric, the friend of Simon, who I ran into and spoke with briefly this summer, who made me oysters 2 years ago before he moved to Argentina for a year. Who is all of 33 years old and obviously still… interested? My body relaxes, I get comfortable in my chair, and I begin typing in French.
Delana: Cedric! How are you these days? Now repeat everything you said to me on the phone…just so I’m sure that I got it right. Tell me everything that’s new.
Et pourquoi pas? (And why not?) I don’t even know the word for cougar in French!