Monday, August 14, 2017

Like a Sneeze

Back in my aunt's house, well back into the last century, the telephone was at the landing, halfway up to the second floor.

My aunt had rented the third floor, a very nice attic, to Maysil, a woman from Canada who worked for the United States Childrens Bureau. (Which was later absorbed into some other agency.)

One Sunday afternoon I answered the phone. The operator had an international call for Maysil, who was not in the house. The operator tried to leave a message to have Maysil return the call. To where? I absolutely could not understand the operator, although I asked her several times to repeat. (Retrospectively, I should have asked her to spell the name.)

I was embarrassed at my failure to understand, but when Maysil returned, I did tell her that she needed to return a call. To where? I did the best I could. After all, what did I know about cities in Canada? I apologized for not understanding the operator, but I did the best I could. "It sounded," I explained to Maysil, "like a sneeze."

"Oh," she says, understanding perfectly, "Kitchener."