Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Three of Us

I'm planning a trip to Sweden.

It's fun. It's been years since I've ventured abroad and this trip has fallen in my lap, so to speak. My friend Alice invited me. Alice in New York.

An apartment-bound Sunday. "Wanna go to Sweden?", asked Alice, "Great", I replied. And we worked it all out. Continental Airlines. Sometime in July.

"Where shall we stay?" I asked Alice. "Oh,with my sister", she answered. Alice's family is Chinese and Alice is Australian, though like me she lives in New York. Her sister is married to a Swede, hence the trip.

Two days later and I'm in my office. The phone rings. I pick up. "It's me, Alice", comes the caller's answer. "Oh hi", I begin, only to be drowned out by Musak. I'm on hold.

Now I've called companies and been put on hold, but I've never had someone call ME and put me on hold.

Intrigued, I wait. At last I hear a sound. But not a sound I expected. The sound of giggling girls. What was this?

"Oh hello", I hear. Two voices in unison. Two Chinese voices. Memories of ... "We are Siamese if you please; we are Siamese if you don't please". But these are Chinese voices - if you please. Images of young Chinese girls giggling behind fans.

"Excuse me," I say. "I've been put on hold before but ... " And the giggles increase. Obviously something is extremely hilarious. I picture Chinese girls, eyes peeping out over delicate 'King and I" fans of 50 years ago. "Excuse me", I say again, feeling rather large and Western. "This is me and who are you?"

Shrieks of tinsely laughter. "Hello", they answer in unison. "Can we help you?"

"You called me!!!" I explain - losing it.

And suddenly the conversation takes on a tone of reality.

"You come to Sweden? I am Alice! Yes", one titters - "Alice told me. tee-hee-tee" (memories of Pearl Buck and "The Good Earth" - or ...)

It turns out that both sisters are called Alice.

"This is confusing," I murmur, forgetting where I was and searching for the shiraz.

"Oh no", they chorus. "Please call me Fay". "Which one?" I ask, "The laughter and the giggles stifle any response.

Alice, Fay, whoever. I am sure we'll have a lot of fun in Sweden. I just have to work out my own name.

I'm inclining to "Pearl", but who knows

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