One night I was teaching a class here at the dormitory when the classroom phone rang. The phone in the classroom only rings for one reason: one of my students is not coming. So, I thought I had better answer it to find out who it would be.
I always use the Japanese greeting when I answer the phone at work, simply because I work with Japanese people. It seems the right thing to do (I only say English at home, so if you want to hear me speaking Japanese, you have to call me at work!). Perhaps if I were being more … truthful, let’s say … about my Japanese ability, the following scene would not have happened.
[All Japanese is phonetically spelled, of course — Exactly as I understood it.]
Front desk worker: Excuse me … usdhjsbdnsdbo … newspaper … ropexczvkhfhfjfjksnjkn … this morning … uey8qwdjasd034 … mailbox … cae2ijkljdid.
Me: I’m sorry. One more time, please [repeating slowly and carefully to make sure I have understood correctly] Mailbox—this morning—newspaper?
[Meanwhile, what is running through my head is this: There was no newspaper in my mailbox this morning, at least not at school. And I didn’t bring one for anyone else. And my newspaper comes to my house just fine … these days. Newspaper? What, not again!]
Front desk worker: Oh! … uypkue84ghhnvlx … Is this the English classroom? … oikezftrfjdjfhdj0w9u … I…m Sorry!
[He hangs up. A beat later I realize what has just transpired; then I hang up, also.]
Me: Next time, if I just begin with English, no one will confuse me for a Japanese student!
It’s 7:00. Do you know where your newspaper is?