A few days ago, I wrote about something that was surprisingly cross-cultural. Today, I speak of something that is not cross cultural: embarrassment over calling the wrong number.
And my manners.
I never nap. Like, ever. Generally, I feel that I wake up more tired than when I first lay down. And I’m so obnoxiously type-A-personalitied that I feel like I’m wasting valuable time during which I could be accomplishing things*. But yesterday I was so exhausted that I decided I deserved a nap. And there’s no better time for a nap than a Sunday afternoon.
Just as I was drifting off, my phone rang. Now, you must understand that I never get phone calls. If I’m lucky, maybe one a week. Due to this, I assumed that it was important. Inspecting my phone, I found an unknown Indonesian number.
I answered, and was greeted by a rather demanding voice on the other side:
Let’s take a quick step back and remember that I speak minimal Indonesian. I can get around okay, but often have to skirt things instead of getting straight to the point in order to avoid words that I don’t know. The conversations that follow take place purely in Indonesian. Hers loud and overbearing, mine rather halting**. Do your best to imagine it with me.
A side note: one of the hardest things about communicating in a new language is being polite. Being polite takes a whole lot of vocabulary that I simply do not yet have. Often, there’s only one way that I can possibly say something. And often, that method is not very warm and fuzzy.
“This isn’t Keisha,” I responded in my broken Indonesian.
“WELL THEN WHERE IS KEISHA!?”
“I don’t know… this isn’t Keisha’s number. Sorry.”
“WELL THEN WHO ARE YOU!?”
“I’m not Keisha… I’m Lauren. Keisha doesn’t live here.”
“Oh… sorry.” Click.
This is the first time anyone had accidentally called my number, and I was pretty proud of myself for getting out of it. Often my students make calls or write texts for me, but no one had been around and I had figured it out!
My moment of victory was oh-so-brief.
Approximately 30 seconds later, the phone rang again. I answered.
“…I’m still not Keisha.”
“WELL THEN WHO ARE YOU?! WHAT’S KEISHA’S NUMBER!?”
“I’m Lauren.. I don’t know Keisha’s number. She’s not my friend. You don’t have the right number***.”
[Insert something in really fast Indonesian that I couldn’t understand.]
“…Sorry ma’am, this is the not right number.” And I hung up.
Still, peace was beyond my grasp.
This lady was persistent.
An hour or so passed, and my phone rang again. Same number. I didn’t answer.
Until the third phone call in a row.
“IS KEISHA THERE?!”
“No, Keisha is still not here.”
“WELL WHERE IS SHE!?”
“I still don’t know. Keisha is not my friend. She does not live with me.”
[More jumbled Indonesian]
Now, let’s pause for a moment so that you can try to put yourself in my shoes. I had to get rid of this lady, and she wasn’t understanding anything. There was no one around to translate. This is where I have to choose between communicating and using my manners, seeing as I don’t know words like ‘please’ (actually it doesn’t really exist here…) and ‘call’.
“Ma’am. I am not Keisha’s friend. I am not your friend. She does not live here. I do not have her number. I do not want to talk to you again!”
Needless to say, I haven’t received any more phone calls.
*I know some of you think I’m crazy, but others of you totally get me on this!
**Indonesians don’t seem to pick up on the whole I’m-still-learning-this-language vibe. No matter how many times you ask them to slow down, they still rattle things off at a million miles a minute!
***I still don’t know the word for wrong…