Thriller Restaurant Series – Volume 18
By Kenmochi Hiroko
Ms. Kimura and her husband decided to spend a year in France, so they settled down in an apartment and decided to get a phone line put in. They heard that when foreigners apply for a phone in Italy, it’s pretty difficult and often get denied. They also heard that it could take up to four months. Since they only planned to stay a year, it wasn’t okay to wait four months.
They discussed it with a friend who had lived in Italy for a long time and decided to ask their landlord to apply on their behalf. However, their landlord said no. She said that it was because the line would be permanently left behind in the apartment and the monthly service charge would have to be paid even after they return to Japan.
They promised to make sure to cancel the contract when they left, and finally their landlord consented. Within two weeks they’d get a phone line put in.
“Just as I thought, it was a good thing we asked our landlord,” said Ms. Kimura, relieved.
They got a phone and had a phone line installed. In Japan, that’s all you need to do and the next day it would work. The technician who installed it said they could use it starting tomorrow.
As it turned out, the next day it wouldn’t work at all. When they picked up the receiver, there was only silence. Even though they tried dialing numbers, it wouldn’t connect to any of them. Ms. Kimura told her friend about it and her friend replied casually, “In Italy tomorrow could mean forever. You can’t rely on it.”
It would be nice if things happened right away, but it seemed it was still too early. Just before she was about to open a claim with the phone company, their phone line was finally connected.
After the installation, about a week passed. Suddenly, the phone rang. She hurried to get the phone and heard, “This is a phone connection test.” After that, they continued, “Attacchi”.
Of course, it was in Italian. Ms. Kimura tried to figure out the meaning of the bewildering word. To her knowledge, the word “attacchi” meant “attack” or “attach” in command form, so she only understood that the phone company was saying, “Please attack” or “Please attach”.
How those requests had anything to do with a phone, she couldn’t immediately comprehend. Surely there was no way it meant “attack the phone”, so it must be “attach”. She decided to interpret it as what would be common sense in Japan—connecting the phone.
She was going to say, “Isn’t it connected already?”. It seemed too weird to say. She tried saying, “What?” in Italian. The person on the other end of the phone said, “Attacchi” again.
“What?” she said, once more. Her voice was timid.
However, the person on the line’s voice became even louder. “Attacchi!”
She could tell the speaker was irritated. She still didn’t have any idea what to do. She heard people yelling to each other on the other end of the line. Just then, someone else came on the line.
“ATTACCHI! DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND!” a surprisingly loud voice suddenly shouted right in her ear.
The force used by the speaker took her by surprise, so she accidentally dropped the phone, causing it to hit the floor with a slam. The call was cut off.
Since then, there were no calls from the company and the phone worked normally. She realized later that in Italian, they say “attach it” to mean hang up the phone. Of course, if you attach the receiver to the base of the phone, it ends a call.
This was a story of the terrible failure of a Japanese person, convinced that to end a call you “cut” the line—that a phone is something you cut, not attach.
This might have been the most difficult short story I’ve translated so far. Thanks to my bro, Mr. Z, you guys get to read a legible version in English!