21 September 2007

The phone rings (a true story)

0945 hours
First I swear a bit. What miserable life form would pick this time to call?? Just when I've sung lullabies and rocked the little one to sleep so I can get on with my day. Ah well, c'est la vie.

"Hello?" In Japan, if one answers hello, the calling party knows at once it's a foreigner. And more often than not, apologises and hangs up.
"Moshi moshi, a good day to you and all that. May I speak to Mr. Sato?"
"Sorry lady, but there's no Mr. Sato here."
"Is this the number .........?" and she rattles off my phone number.
"Well, that is the number, alright, but this is Mr. Krishnan's residence."
"That's alright, may I speak to Mr. Sato?"
"Lady, there is no Sato here, please check your records, this is not the number for Mr. Sato."
Some apologies. And she hangs up.

Keep in mind that these conversations are happening in rapid Japanese spoken at 2000 words per minute, and poor old moi responding at about 3 words a minute. And of course, everytime she pauses for breath, I ask her to repeat whatever she just said ever so slowly. And is smaller sentences, in easier words.

1005 hours
There goes the phone again.
Avani howls.
"Moshi moshi, good morning and all that. It's me, that-ever-so-slightly-obstinate-person calling from your phone company. May I speak to Mr. Sato?"
For the love of God, "There's no one here who goes by the name of Mr. Sato. Could you please check your records?"
"But this is the number I have for Mr. Sato!"
"There is no Mr. Sato here. This is the residence of Mr. Krishnan."
After another flurry of apologies she hangs up again.

1030 hours
"Moshi moshi, good morning and all that. Could I speak to Mr. Sato?"
I'd hoped against hope that the this lady would have acquired a modicum of common sense and figured out their records were wrong. I admire tenacity, but this is ridiculous. So I go,
"Could you please write down this name in the Romaji script?"
"Yes, of course. Could you spell it out for me?"
"K-R-I-S-H-N-A-N. Did you get that? Would you like me to repeat it?"
"No that's all right. Ku-ri-shu-nan. Is that right?"
"Perfectly right. This is the home of Mr. Krishnan. There is NO Mr. Sato here."
Phew... I think this ordeal is almost over. I thank too soon.
"Thank you so much. May I speak to Mr. Krishnan?"
"He's at work."
"May I speak to his wife?"
Who the &*%@ did she think was talking to her all this time??
"This is she."
"I want to speak to Mr. Sato."
After living in Japan for over a year, much as I try to emulate the exquisite Japanese courtesy, sometimes I lose my tenuous grip on my temper.
"THERE IS NO MR. SATO HERE? Can't you understand me?"
"Is this telephone number ..........?"
"Yes, this is that same telephone number. THERE IS NO ONE CALLED SATO IN THIS HOUSE."
"But this is the number I have for Mr. Sato."
I hang up.

And the phone rings again.
It's HER. I don't believe it. She's been sent by demons to torture me and not let my little one sleep.
My grip on civility is totally gone now. If she can be a pain, I can outdo her anytime.

I did what I should have done in the first place. I refused to speak any Japanese, or English. I spoke in Tamil, threw in some Hindi for good measure.

This time she hung up first.

And I took the phone off the hook.

And Mr. Sato, whoever you are, the phone company is trying to reach you desperately!
And you deserve to have your phone cut off and telephone services denied to you for the rest of your life.


Hemant said...

give em Smitha's number, it would be a fascinating conversation :D

Vidya said...

d'you think we could sell tickets to that one??

Axe said...

See, I would have asked her why she's calling, ask her for her manager, and blast him :)

Anonymous said...


Your posts remind me of the time we lived in Paris. Given the French's penchant for their language, experienced many such situations. The sequence in most is the same- you summon all ur meagre language skills and make an assault and wait for the opposite party's response praying tht its on the right track. Its in those times that your belief in the Indian philosphy of karma and fate strenghtens and you just sit back go with the flow finally.

btw, I was in the tokyo area last week , would like to see more of the countryside next time.
I really enjoy reading both your blogs. esp liked the rangoli with the kids post.


Tys on Ice said...

I hate telephones...so we have disconnected our landline...iam serious...its only the mobile fone now and that i can mute it whn i want...

wife thinks that iam a social misfit and a recluse...i think, i just hate talking plastic..

Vidya said...

Axe: the sequel is that I spoke to a supervisor who didnt speak a word of English, listened to everything I had to say and asked for Mr. Sato again. Now what??

Bharati: karma is about right!

Tys: Anti-social is the easiest way of remaining sane.

TBC said...

My first time here. Came here thro' Jugalbandi.
That was a hilarious read. Will be back for more.

Anonymous said...

Came to select a movie to watch, but your writing just
is so gripping, jovial , lively and all...
Hey,i`m not that much of a reader, but i will come back for more nice reads.