The man on the phone was speaking French that was unmistakable, what he was saying, well that was much harder to fathom. I learned a little French at school many many years ago. My poor, and very rusty French, was no where near good enough to catch any of the machine gun French being rattled at me down the phone.
“Monsieur s’il vous plait”. But there was no stopping him, on he went without pause or seemingly without need for breath. Now we at the EZE Group are a fairly international bunch, off the top of my head I can count English, Spanish, German, Dutch, Danes and (yes that’s it) a Belgian.
“Hetty, can you take this please?”” One of your countrymen on the phone (I knew he was in all likelihood French but there was always the chance he was actually Belgian) do hurry, I think he’s about to blow a gasket”.
I knew it was coming “What is a gasket?” My mistake, never use a colloquialism with a non-native however good their English.
“Oh never mind, it’s too complicated.” To be honest I’m not exactly clear on what is the function or purpose of a gasket, although I could point one out if I saw one.
As soon as the receiver hit her ear she went into over-drive – at least matching if not outstripping the caller in terms of tempo and agitation.
I actually heard my dear colleague say “Oh la la.” I thought that was only found in the works of Benny Hill and the guy that wrote the Carry on Films, but no the French, and not forgetting the Belgians, do actually say it.
I gestured to her, was everything ok but got nothing in return, no eye contact nothing, just the pace and agitation of her voice increased. Now I was worried, the Frenchman, although now I took him to be Belgian was obviously the bearer of terrible news, perhaps concerning a loved one. Poor Hetty she certainly looked shook.
Then she stopped dead in her conversational tracks, looking quite ashen. Limply replaced the receiver back on the cradle and turned to go.
“Hetty,” she didn’t turn to face me, the shock of the terrible news had certainly numbed her.
“Hetty,” The volume and the tone of my voice managed to break through her shock, “is everything alright?”
“Pardon?” she replied.
“The phone call, was it bad news, is everything alright, if there’s anything I can do to help?”
She looked a little baffled, the colour returning somewhat to her face.
“Ah the phone, that…. that was a wrong number.” And with that she turned on her elegant heels and headed off back to her work station.
I was too baffled to enquire further, totally baffled.
It turns out the irate Frenchman, for he was such, was enquiring after a lost (thankfully now found) party of school children. They were on a school trip from the north of France and were lost rambling in the area of Èze. An overwrought father and international directory enquires have made for stranger wrong numbers I imagine.