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My Turn

Wayne Chan

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #1 (January 4, 2016), page 6.

The proverb non sequitur

I am a beacon of wisdom. I am a pillar of intelligence. Go ahead, ask me anything.

OK Ö maybe Iím not all that right at the moment. But, trust me, itís just around the corner.

Iím now 51 years old, and if you believe what is in the movies, Asian men, as they get older, seem to acquire a wisdom and sageness that can overcome any adversity. No matter how complicated a problem, an older Asian man will have the perfect answer, and it will usually come in the form of a proverb that is incredibly deep and overwhelmingly profound. The proverbs sound something like:

A cat who eats too many birds may

find itself unable to scratch its back.

A raindrop falls from a cloud as happily

as the wind blows from the east.

A child laughs only once

if a frog turns to stone.

Now, I donít know what any of that means, but Iím not supposed to ó Iím not a wise old man yet.

But itís just a matter of time ó I figure in about 15 years Iíll check back to those proverbs, gently nod my head in agreement, and think, "Yes, of course."

If I believe what I see in the movies, by about 2030, Iíll start wearing round, wire-rimmed glasses, have the requisite goatee, and apparently my skills in martial arts will grow exponentially to the point that Iím kicking the butts of adolescent bullies in high school at the drop of a hat.

Itís about time, too. I canít wait until this miraculous transformation begins, because over the last few years, my IQ seems to have dropped precipitously. Maybe itís just a temporary dip before I enter my wise old sage years.

Not long ago, I needed to scan and e-mail some documents for my stockbroker in order to make changes to one of my accounts. All I had to do was print my name, date the documents, list my title as an owner of my company, and then sign my name on the bottom line. Like most people, Iíve done this type of thing a million times.

Easy enough. I filled out the form, sent it back, and moved on to the next thing on my daily to-do list. But soon, I received a call.

"Mr. Chan, thank you so much for filling out the paperwork and getting it back so quickly," my stockbrokerís assistant said. "But, you missed a couple of things. Could you review the document and get it back to me?"

"Of course," I replied. I figured Iíd inadvertently overlooked something. Quickly scanning the page, it looked like I missed the part where I was supposed to list my business title.

Easy enough. I sent the page and moved on with my day.

Except that I received another call.

"Mr. Chan," she said, "Thanks for listing the title, but it looks like you forgot to include your signature." Looking back at the document, I did indeed miss my signature on page one of the document.

"Iím so sorry," I said. "Iíve signed it and you should see the completed document in your inbox now."

I was thinking, "I need to be a little more careful about this. Oh well, live and learn."

Then she called back.

"Mr. Chan," she said. "Thank you so much for signing the first page, but the last page also needs your signature." So I signed the last page and sent it back.

The phone rings again. Apparently I signed the wrong line on the last page. After fixing that, she called once more ó I also missed the date on the first page.

I sat at my desk with my hand on the phone for 20 minutes waiting for another call. Apparently, I finally managed to get it right. It only took five phone calls for me to correctly fill out the forms. I apologized each time she called, but I was running out of logical excuses to keep her from thinking I was a blithering idiot.

Ah well, what can you do? You know what they say:

A man walking down a winding path

can sing like a dolphin but never

in a squirrelís presence.


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