Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Road Warrior Returns

It's was early April sometime when I last sat in my office in Seattle. I have been traveling every week, mainly to Chicago, but I had the pleasure of spending the past five days in Palo Alto, California.

One of the positive results of my trip to Palo Alto was having my area of responsibility redefined, and soon I will relinquish my Chicago responsibilities to someone else. I tell people I meet in Chicago that I only work there, but I live in Seattle.

I look forward to spending more time with my family, and more time taking care of business closer to home.

The Seattle International Film Festival began while I was away, so I have some catching up to do. Many movies to see. I also have set aside some time to spend with my family. It is going to be a good Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tale of the Toenail

There was a sharp piece of exposed metal extending from the bed frame in my hotel room, an instrument by which one of my toenails was cruelly severed off. And this was one of the toes of my broken foot, the shy neighbor of the piggie which had been abruptly twisted and mangled six weeks ago. My sock was becoming a recovery ward for piggies.

This toenail business caused me a delay of perhaps a half hour in getting out to dinner, and I still had a stop to make along Michigan Avenue. I found that my pronounced limp (which in the past week had all but disappeared) had returned with a vengeance, primarily because the severed toenail, which I had carefully reattached using two Band-Aids, was shifting as I walked and scraping against the raw underside of my toenail.

(When I related the accident to my daughter over the phone, her first question was, "Behind the toenail, is it gooey?")

I phoned down to the front desk and asked for the name of the manager on duty, stating that there had been an accident in room 2103. I made an appointment and rode the elevator down to see him.

I was taken to the manager's office and was surprised to find there a young man extending his hand and saying, in a fake English accent,"What's all this then, laddie? Accident in the room, you said?"

I told him what happened.

"Not minding your piggies, eh? Terribly sorry, old sod. What can I do to make it better?" He pronounced it beh-tah. Fake.

"You could have someone remove the bloody towels from the floor," I said, hoping my statement might levy some kind of visible emotional impact, sympathy, or offers of cash and freebies.

It did not.

"Will bring round fresh towels right away. How about a wheel chair, what?"

"Absolutely not."

"Right-o, then. Ring down if you need anything."

I hobbled up Michigan Avenue to a bookshop and bought a Richard Scarry book for my daughter. I joked to the young clerk that I was going to teach myself to read tonight, and she asked why I was limping."I severed off a toenail about forty-five minutes ago," I said, and she responded with a grimace. Our transaction continued, but the clerk had terminated our conversation. Which was fine. She had been speaking in a fake Long Island accent and I was annoyed with her anyway.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fake English

Every so often I cross paths with someone in the service industry whom I think is faking an English accent. Walk into a nearly empty restaurant and the too-thin twenty-something host with platinum highlights gestures dramatically and says, “Cheerio, gov’nuh...table for one?”

I am not sure why someone in the service industry would fake an English accent, but I suspect that there are a few extroverted and theatrical hourly-earners out there that do so on a regular basis.

And these people annoy me.

Often a suspected linguistic fraud is a waiter or porter. Yesterday it was an effeminate hotel clerk who spoke in what sounded like an English stage accent. It was good, but not perfect. His skill level at performing an English accent was more or less on par with my own, and having once or twice faked an English accent myself (but never on the job), my fake accent radar went into red alert.

He was answering a question about the history of the hotel I was staying at while I glared dubiously at him. He seemed taken aback, most likely because he suspected I doubted the information. But what I doubted was the accent.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“From? Ah. Merry old England, ‘course. Manchester. Cheerio. God save the queen and all that, mate.”

Uh-huh. Sure. Manchester. All the fakes are from Manchester, ever notice that? I took consolation that morning in the fact that at least my cab driver's accent is genuine. No deception there. I couldn't understand a word he was saying.