In fact, it took me about twenty years before I was told that ‘Hit me with your pet shark’ was not lyrically on the button. Songs are one thing, but when the verbal break down is between two humans on a different wave length, that’s when things get really funny.
The other day a friend of mine Adrien was at a Japanese restaurant and asked for “someone to take our order”. The lady standing in front of them wrote down something on a piece of paper and returned to the table ten minutes later with a dish called ‘Salmon Tatake’—a mix up that was both delicious and funny.
The language and accent barrier can be quite the hurdle. Recently, while I was in a gas station in Pukekohe, I witnessed first hand an epic mix up. A Kiwi woman at the front of the queue asked the Indian man behind the counter for a packet of “Quick-EZE”. And while the lady was hunched over the counter top visibly suffering from the effects of heart burn or indigestion, the man hovered a pair of tongs over a large variety of cookies in the cabinet, querying whether she would prefer Macadamia or Chocolate chip. That had me in stitches.
But the best was still to come during a road trip I took over summer. Travelling alone up the East Coast of the North Island, I found myself having to ring around for a motel to stay at in Gisborne late at night outside the normal office hours. After many phone calls I finally managed to get hold of a place in beautiful Tologa Bay. The elderly Maori lady who runs the motel answers softly “Kia ora”. I could tell that I had just woken her up so I immediately apologised “I’m really sorry to ring this late, but I’m looking for somewhere to stay. Are you still doing check ins?”
“Chickens?” She replies. “Yeah, as in check ins for tonight?” I said. “We’ve never done chickens sorry love” laughing until her charming chain smokers cough intervened. I didn’t realise we were singing from a much different song sheet. I was adamant she had said check ins, while she thought I had got hold of some of the local greenery and caught a case of the munchies. “I’ll give you a number for a guy I know that will help you out love”. At this stage I didn’t care if it was Norman Bates. Such was the level of desperation for some where to crash. See six foot four me, trying to sleep in a Corolla hatch is like trying to bend a frankfurter into the shape of a pretzel. So I perilously fossick around the centre console in order to find a pen to write the number down on a napkin.
“You ready darling?” she continues.“Yup. Go ahead” I said. “Ok, 0800 532 532.” Me: “Thanks for that, I really appreciate your help.” Her: “You’re welcome my friend, good luck.” *Laugh *Cough *Dial tone. Still a tad bemused as to why a motel had never taken a check in before, I punch in the 0800 number and wait for a cliché automated answer to kick in. And so it does. And which company was it that this lovely-natured lady had given me to help in the quest for a bed to lie in? Was it a chain for backpackers? Hotel Trivago?
Nope. It was KFC.