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Getting Off on Eight

I get onto an elevator, I can’t remember where. A Chinese man in his late middle-age steps on. He is toting a Prada handbag that is tucked under his arm and behind his wrist. He is wearing a shiny watch, I think it’s a Rolex. It is just the two of us. I ask him in Chinese which floor, and he says eight. He makes an obligatory comment about my Mandarin and the doors close.

When he learns I am from the States he beams back that his daughter is studying there. I ask him where and he says she is at the number-eight ranked university. He glances at the eighth floor button lit on the elevator panel as if it is somehow auspicious, and he then looks back at me to see if I too have taken notice. I don’t give him anything.

I ask him the name of the university and he repeats that she is at the eighth-ranked one. I again ask the name and a little deflated he now admits he doesn’t know.

“Where is she studying, in what city, in what place, in what part of the country?” He is still smiling but he looks uneasy now.

“It is ranked number eight,” he now feebly bleats.

“You don’t know WHERE your daughter lives in the USA?” I semi smile and look up to see which floor we are on.

The elevator arrives on the eighth floor and the man doesn’t say anything and gets off.

“Bye, bye,” I say in English. “Nice to meet you,” I say in Chinese.

The doors close and moments later I get off on number nine.


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