Saturday, October 06, 2007

The 21st Century Fawlty Towers experience

Lost in Translation

Last night I received a text message from my sister.

It said "If you get this, please call me on 00 34 913537300".

It was the typical kind of message she sends when she's away on business, staying in a swanky hotel. With time on her hands she enjoys the opportunity for a catch-up and a good gab at my expense.

The problem was, I only got the message at 10.45pm even though it was sent at 8.30pm....dilemma...was it too late to ring? Being a mother of two under 3s, surely she'd be catching up on her sleep....hmmm.

Then I thought...ah maybe she's gone on some long-distance business trip and is somewhere overseas in a completely different time-zone. After all, I didn't recognise the 34 country code and couldn't be bothered to boot up the computer to check where in the world it was. Instead, I just dialled the number and waited for the call to be answered.

Suddenly a lady answered in a language that was definitely not French or German and certainly not English. Already I was out of my depth.

" you speak English?", I asked, feeling terribly rude.

Without any further comment came the "on hold" music and a man soon answered.

" you speak English?", I asked again, now feeling pretty helpless, but quickly relieved when he asked how he could help. It was pigeon English but at least it was English. I explained the situation...

"My sister has left a message for me to ring her, but I don't want to disturb her if it is too late, please could you tell me what time it is?".

"Excuse me madam?"

I repeated the question, but this time more slowly.

"Pardon me madam?"

Now, feeling a tad frustrated I just asked the time.

"It is 11.45pm madam".

"That's definitely too late for me to disturb her. Don't worry, I will call her in the morning." I said.

With only an hour's time difference and recognising his accent, I guessed I must have been calling one of the western Mediterranean countries and couldn't resist asking...

"Would you mind telling me which country I am calling?"

"Excuse me madam?"

So again, I repeated the question.

"Pardon me madam?".

So finally, I just asked "What country is this?", to which he replied...

"SPAIN madam!"

followed by...

"Madam, you are a guest at our hotel yes? Do you need help? Which is your room?"

Aaaarrrghhh....he obviously thought I was a barmy Brit and I now felt convinced I was!

I tried to call my sister again this morning.....ha ha ha....she'd already checked out!


The Babas said...

The Babas like this one! Poor you! We did have a vision of you struggling with "Manuel" to get a sensible answer.......the fact that he thought you might actually be in the hotel says a lot more about hom than it does about you....!!

Jo Beaufoix said...

hee hee hee.

What is it Manuel says, 'Que?'

picklesmum said...

I hope you spoke LOUDLY and SLOWLY to the foreigner. That always works for us Brits!

Ruby in Bury said...

LOL. You should have ordered some tapas ;-)

Cashier No.5 said...

I thought it was going to be one of those wind up phone calls, that you find was a recording, as I read it.

florries mum said...

Text her back next time and tell her that these wonderful inventions called phones work in both directions-especially from foreign countries! Sisters are great, aren't they?

21st Century Mummy said...

Hello everyone - thank you for all your comments. I feel like I've been out of the country since posting this. That's how bizarre the experience was.

Babas - I think I must learn a little spanish to get by even though I've only visited Spain once (and that was Barcelona, where they speak Catalan)!

Jo - Que...ah ah...that'll be my first word then!

Picklemsmum - LOUDER seemed to be the way to go! However, I even tried a "parlez vous Francais" in the hope that we might have had a chance in retaining the quieter tone.

Ruby - Tapas...ha ha...I dread to think what would have arrived!

Cashier've just given me an idea!

Florries mum - Nice one...hmmm. I think I'll save that one when I eventually get to the US. Thank youfor last night BTW. Sorry I had to scuttle off. ;-D