Monday, August 14, 2006

Miss Interpretation

Ever since we were kids, my brother and I had to take turns playing interpreter to our mum. Whether she was trying to buy insurance, or get a good price on a lounge suite or convince the electricity company that the bill was unreasonably high, one of us always got roped in to translate Cantonese to English and back again.

My Cantonese-speaking workmate used to have a great laugh when she overheard me on the phone, acting as the go-between for my mother and some poor furniture retailer or whatever her target of the day was. She drives a pretty hard bargain, which totally conflicts with my aversion to this way of doing business (what a sorry excuse for a Cantonese I must seem).

It would go something like this:
"So you want ten percent off for cash? Okay, put me onto the salesman and I'll ask him. She wants to know if she can get ten percent off for cash. You have to ask your manager? Okay, ask your manager, and let me talk to my mother. Mum, he has to ask his manager. Put me back onto the salesman again. What - the manager is at lunch and you don't have the authority? Alright, I put me back on to my mother then. Mum, he says the manager isn't there and he can't give you a discount without the manager. Mum, it's already on sale at fifty percent off anyway. Why don't you just pay what it says on the poster? Okay okay okay! Put me back on to the man. My mother says she can get ten percent off at that shop in the mall. You can give five percent off? Okay, put me back on to my mother. He says you can get five percent off. Why isn't that good enough,mum. Look, I haven't got all day to talk on the phone you know - I have computers to programme. Okay okay...put the man back on..."
And so it would continue until an hour had passed and my mother had got her bargain.

Today I had to hire a plumber for my mother, whose bathroom and laundry taps have become leaky and obstinate. Being the interpreter is much more tedious now, as every other sentence has to be repeated at least twice because my mum is so hard of hearing. It really cuts into my free time (TLM's nap time) you know.

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