Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Keeping Our Friends Close and Our Colleagues Secret

I work in an "international department" in name only. Many, many things happen around here in Chinese instead of English, or at best, in both languages side-by-side. Each office has a sign on the door identifying the workers it contains, with the foreigners' names in Roman letters and the Chinese names in characters. This was how I spent a week e-mailing a guy who, it turns out, sits ten feet away from me. I can't read his name on the door.

I've mentioned to both my boss and his boss that this doesn't breed collegial familiarity. They both agreed and said they would correct it immediately. It's been three months.

This morning, a colleague (he of the bank meltdown) came in my office and asked, "Where does Mrs. Zhao sit?" Now, because the two Chinese women in my office are identified to me only by their English given names, I have no idea who that is. I asked, "Who is that?" His answer: "Mrs. Zhao."

Well, since neither of the Chinese women in my office are married, there's no "Mrs." anything around here, smart-ass. I said, "There's [Name 1] and there's [Name 2]." He said, "Not [Name 1]." I said, "So [Name 2]?" He said, "Yeah, Mrs. Zhao."

When I was IMing my wife about this later, she asked, "Was he all perturbed like he was at the bank?" I answered, "No, he was all friendly about it, like, 'All us friends call each other Mrs., even when we're not married! Wheeeee!'" Then I added, "Full disclosure: he didn't actually SAY 'Wheeeee!' with his mouth, but his flamboyancy said it for him."

No comments: