By somebody besides me, I mean.
One of the building managers, in the standard beige, many-pocketed jumpsuit, came into our office a few weeks ago. He bowed politely as he entered the room and made a beeline for Takeda-san. He bent over her desk and consulted with her for a while in a hushed voice.
Then he strode back out again, bowing and yelling to the room at large, “失礼しました!” (“Sorry to have disturbed you!”).
Takeda-san came over. I could tell she wanted something, but she can take some coaxing to get it out. And she talks in such a roundabout way, I often have no idea what she’s saying.
“It’s like this,” she said. She pulled on my sleeve and looked at me with her pleading look, as if I should be able to read her mind and save her the pain of spelling it out for me. I laughed and pulled on her sleeve back. Then she sighed and showed me a piece of paper with some Japanese written on it. It was something about pushing a button.
“How would you say this in native English?” she asked.
The existing English translation was something like, “After use, please push strongly this button.”
After taking several angles of questioning with her, I finally understood that the building managers were making a sign for the bathrooms, since (apparently) the advanced toilet design was so subtle that people couldn’t figure out where and how to flush them. I know I had had some trouble with them when I first started.
I gave her my best shot at a native English sentence. I didn’t even give her the caveat that some people from New Zealand or India or other places where they also speak English natively might not agree with my rendering.
A little later, the gentleman from the building management department strode back in with a loud, “失礼します!” (“Sorry to disturb you!”) He grabbed the corrected English translation from Takeda-san, bowed repeatedly to me, thanking me several times, and then charged back out again.
Several days later, this sign appeared over the toilet:
Wow, you really can’t get clearer than that. And the English is pretty native, I’d say. For a Californian.
Now, every time I go to the restroom, I can admire my own writing. Published!
Mr. Reader, I don’t know if this post meets your standards of musingly visionary, but I promised you I’d write again, so here I am. It’s at least a start.