Saturday, March 10, 2007

The relationship between moral health & a blind wife

I called our friend Marta to invite her to dinner. Her housekeeper answered the phone. “Good afternoon, this is Mary.” Quite impressive, I think, to be greeted with a time-of-day specific salutation and a name. “Hi, this is David. Is Marta home?” “Sorry, Sir. Nothing Marta.” Over the years, I learned that “Nothing Marta” does not mean that Marta has been vaporized. She is simply not home.

Now I am faced with a choice. Should I leave a message, or call back later? What would you do?

I’m feeling both lucky and a little dangerous, so I decide to leave a message. “Could you write this down please?” I ask, realizing that maybe I don’t feel as lucky or as dangerous as I first thought. “Nothing pencil. For a while, sir.” I listen to papers shuffling and wait for Mary to come back to the phone. “Okay sir.” “Please write this down and give it to Marta when she returns home.” “Okay sir. Ready.” “Dinner tonight,” I say. “Okay, ‘Dinner tonight,’” she repeats slowly as she writes it down. Five o’clock.” “Okay, ‘Five o’clock,’” she writes. “David and Mara’s House.” “Okay, ‘David’s moral health,’” she writes.

Huh? Say what? What happened? Did “David and Mara’s house” really become “David’s moral health”? I guess it did. I’m fluent in English, and conversant in two other languages in which I often miss things, so I know some funny things can happen on the way to mutual understanding. And I am not conversant in any of this region’s languages, so I can’t quickly switch to Mary’s native tongue to clarify things. So we’re stuck right here at “David’s moral health.” What should I do? Keep trying? Give up? What would you do?

I pride myself on my perseverance (i.e. I’m hard-headed), so I decide to keep going. I will say it again, offering some clarification. It never crosses my mind that the clarification could possibly lead to further confusion.

Here I go. “No, ‘David and MARA’s HOUSE,’ NOT ‘David’s moral health.’” “Ohhhh,” she says. “David not have moral health?”

Time to change tactics. “Mary, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to spell this. Are you ready?” “Yes sir.” “D-A-V-I-D A-N-D M-A-R-A-S H-O-U-S-E.” She repeats each letter as she writes them down, getting it perfectly, except that she adds an “i” to “Mara,” making it “Maria.”

I should stop, don’t you think? But I can’t. I’m thinking to myself, there are lots of Maria’s on this island. Marta might know a “David & Maria,” and could end up at their house for dinner, causing an awkward moment for everyone just because I didn’t want to clarify things. There is only one “David & Mara” on Saipan. Best to clarify. And plus, I realize that Mary is going to give a message to Marta about Mara who has morphed into Maria, so surely, by pursuing this a bit further, there is more humor to be had. I keep going.

“Mary,” I say, “Mara is my wife. Her name is MARA , not MARIA. MARA has no “i”. “Ahhhh,” she exclaims sadly, “Your wife nothing eyes? Cannot see?”

I pause, and realize that I am, in this moment, truly content. I am in the midst of one of those beautiful multicultural multilingual Saipan moments, that make you want to either laugh, or shoot yourself, or if you are fully experiencing the nuances of the situation, both. I offer to call back later, smile, and head off to ponder the pity that Mary must feel for me, my blind wife and my poor moral health.


The Saipan Blogger said...

I have to correct you on one thing: Those situations tend to make a person want to laugh or shoot the other person. Not everyone is as patient as you.

Marianas Eye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KAP said...

Maybe no answer because of the following blog. Bad timing/bad choice of words.

Read this in the Variety and loved it. My favorite story this week.

Last but by no means least a testimonial. I'd be reading this with Assistive Technology without you. Thanks for the bionic eyes Doc.

Marianas Eye said...

Glad you got a laugh, and glad you're enjoying your bionic eyes!

bradinthesand said...

I guess that must have been what your patient was discussing over breakfast at the kitchen table...

Kimiko said...

I think it was really funny, also I understand Mary.
I'm not native English speaker, so it happend many times like your story, espscially on the phone. Oh, but I never say "nothing" for the people.(^_^)

Marianas Eye said...

I'm happy you enjoyed it, Kimiko.


BeverLi said...

Mark sent this to me while I'm in Portland visiting my parents. We all enjoyed and they now have a better understanding of what I tell them about Saipan. Thanks for the laugh.

Bartimaeus said...

great laff : ) thanks!

took me back in time (and while i'm still there) a word of advice: never tell your house keeper to "thaw out the meat" : (

you can come to your own conclusion...

Tim and Franicia said...

How funny! This definitely cured my nausea for the moment. We share many funny stories like this within our family. There seems to be so much that I often joke around about making a comic book that we can laugh at. Unfortunately I can't draw well and memory will have to suffice.