The Most Unserious of 2021
It was almost 6 pm and I was getting hungry, thinking about what to have for dinner when my colleague suddenly messaged me with a bunch of questions. She opened a Zoom screen share and bombarded me with so many questions that I thought it was an interview. By 6:30, she probably realized that I was starting to brush her off because all I could think about was the restaurant menu.
We’ve worked together for four years, but for the first two years, we were in different departments on different floors and didn’t have much interaction. Then the pandemic hit, and many new projects forced us to have close online contact for the past two years, but we still weren’t close.
Have you ever experienced a situation where suddenly there’s no sound on Zoom, only video? At the time, her camera was on – Westerners like to turn on their cameras, while Chinese people mostly put up a whitened photo of their face, and Indians mostly put up a beautiful but tacky and fake landscape photo, or just a black screen with a name that no one can pronounce.
All I could see was her mouth moving, but there was no sound. The whole screen was just a talking mouth. I called out to her, but she didn’t respond. I didn’t turn on my camera, so she didn’t know I was answering, and obviously she couldn’t hear me. I sent a text saying I couldn’t hear anything and to leave the meeting and rejoin. But it was still the same.
I sent another text saying to use my Zoom and open a new one. Still the same. I had to tell her to reboot her laptop, which might take a few minutes. Then suddenly I heard her voice. She said she was just kidding and sorry for delaying my dinner, so she tried to make me laugh and end the day with a smile… So, it was all an act. I’ll never forget the screen with the talking mouth but no sound. She acted so seamlessly.
What a French woman with an English accent.
I started thinking about how to get revenge. I could wait, so I waited for over a week.
Today, I went back to the office and decided to get my revenge. I knew she goes to the office every day and sits in her old seat.
This was the first time we met in two years, but we didn’t say hello. I just went straight to her and gestured and acted out a bunch of “mute words” for about 20-30 seconds and then left. Mime is all about exaggerated movements, and the audience doesn’t need binoculars to understand the plot. I’m familiar with this because I acted in English plays in school, wearing all sorts of strange robes. When I turned around, I saw an unfortunate Indian colleague sitting far away, staring at me in shock. The whole floor was almost empty, and anyone who came close would inevitably look up, so he must have witnessed the whole thing.
I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee and met a VP who happened to be coming down from upstairs. It seemed like he was about a minute behind me. I forgot that there were many heavyweight people upstairs, and I forgot that during the pandemic, they all came back to set an example. What if he witnessed everything just now…
When we greeted each other, I carefully checked the muscles on his face, and they all seemed calm. But you can never read these people, even if I brought a turkey to work, his expression wouldn’t change. They’re all trained.
So I’ve been worried ever since.
Today, I was at home and had another online meeting with her. We both had the ability to not mention anything about what happened, as if nothing had happened. It was the highest level of being nonchalant, but I was still worried because the matter was not resolved.
During the meeting, I mentioned her name and she was a bit embarrassed to say that I had been mispronouncing it for years. I had been calling her “Su Haila,” and everyone else did too. She said that we were all pronouncing it wrong. In French, “S” is pronounced as “L,” and “Su” should be pronounced as “Ro.” Therefore, her name should be “Ro Haila.” I was surprised and kept apologizing.
Silicon Valley is like a small United Nations, so this kind of thing is possible. Everyone follows the wrong pronunciation of a name, and the person involved is too lazy to correct it.
After the meeting, I realized that I had been fooled again. It seems that this matter will not be resolved anytime soon.
That day, we went to a French restaurant called “Papillon” for dinner. While eating, I thought of a serious problem… According to the English pronunciation, the word “Papillon” should be pronounced as “pa-pi-long.” I believe that many people may have been mispronouncing it their whole lives, but I know that the French pronounce “Papillon” as “pa-pi-yong.”
So, I became confused again.
The next day, during our online meeting, I asked her why “LON” is pronounced as “YON” instead of “long.” The “L” in this case clearly makes a “Y” sound. She patiently explained to me that in French, if the vowel “I” comes before the letter “L,” then the “L” should be pronounced as “Y.” Therefore, “LON” should be pronounced as “YON.” I asked her to swear that she wasn’t tricking me this time, and she said she absolutely wasn’t.
But then I suddenly woke up from a dream that night, realizing that the problem was even bigger.
Her name is Su Haila, and the “la” at the end is pronounced as “LA,” but the vowel “I” comes before it, so does that mean that “LA” should be pronounced as “YA”? Therefore, her name should be “Su Haiya”?
I haven’t asked her yet. I know she won’t let this opportunity to mess with me slip away. So far, it’s two to one, and she’s winning. If I ask her, it’s like giving her the serve again, and it will soon become three to one. Planning revenge against someone high-end is actually very painful, so for now, I can only take a loss and deal with it.
The pandemic has created a group of increasingly nonchalant people. I was supposed to go back to work this week, but now it’s been postponed until March “for now.” If this continues, Silicon Valley will never find normal people again.
(Insert some unrelated photos to highlight this nonchalant attitude.)