大陆打来的第一个电话 / My First Telephone Call from China


 

“我是于……” / “This is You…”




大陆打来的第一个电话


到了1978年,我已经在香港生活、工作了将近四年。我定期去广交会,并加入了一个去中国的旅行团。那个时候只有受到邀请,才能加入这个旅行团。

当时,中国的电话很少,只有高级领导或大人物的家里才有。酒店房间里也没有。做生意不是通过电话,而是通过电传、电报或信件,速度慢得像蜗牛爬。

我一年两次定期去广交会。当时,要从香港九龙天星码头附近的老车站坐火车,花上差不多一整天的时间。

到达广州火车站后,你会遇到邀请你的主办机构派来的人。

此人被派来帮你安排会议和活动。你一到广州,他们就来听你的要求,随后详细地回复你,哪些活动可以安排,哪些不可以。

任何事情都不能预先安排,因此,你免不了有很多空闲时间,坐在一旁,喝热茶、崂山温矿泉水或是青岛冰啤酒。

所以,当一天上午我在香港,办公室前台告诉我,有人从中国内地打电话给我时,我感到非常惊讶。

内地的电话?真是闻所未闻。几天后,我就要去广交会了,和以往一样,我以为所有事情只有到了那里才能安排。

我断定,前台搞错了,要不就是个捣乱电话。

我拿起话筒,另一头是一个男人的声音,说一口英式英语:“This is You in Guangzhou。”他这句话,还有他的英语,让我发懵,我差一点说:“我不在广州,我在这儿呢。”

原来,打电话的人姓“于”(Yu),正是我希望在广交会上结识的一家公司的高管。他打电话提议见面的日期和时间。我高兴地答应了。


这件事以及当时的其他各种经历都让我感觉到,中国正在开始发生巨变。


My First Telephone Call from China

By 1978 I had been living and working in Hong Kong for nearly four years. I had visited the Canton Trade Fair quite regularly and joined one tour group to China, which was by invitation only in those days.

Telephones were rare in China . Only very senior leaders or VIPs people had phones at home. Hotel rooms did not have telephones. Business was not done by telephone. Telex, cables or letters were used instead. Business was done at a snail’s pace.

I was about to make my regular twice yearly visit to the Canton Trade Fair, which was then nearly a full day’s journey by train from Hong Kong’s old train station, next to the Star Ferry Terminus in Kowloon.

Once you arrived at the Guangzhou Rail Station, you would be met there by someone from the host organization which had invited you.

This person was assigned to assist with your meetings and arrangements while there. They would listen to your requests upon arrival, and get back to you later with details of what could or could not be arranged.

Nothing could be arranged in advance, and there was inevitably a lot of spare time spent sitting around drinking hot tea, warm Laoshan mineral water, or cold Qingdao beer.

So it was with great surprise that one morning in Hong Kong, I heard our office receptionist tell me that I had a caller on the line from China.

It was unheard of to receive a telephone call from China. I was due to leave for the Canton Trade Fair within a few days, but expected as usual that all arrangements would be made on the spot after arrival there.

I was sure the receptionist must have made a mistake, or that it was a prank call.

I picked up the phone and a male voice on the other end said in British-accented English “This is You in Canton.” I was caught off balance by the call and the fact he was speaking English, and almost said “But I’m not in Canton. I’m here.”

It turned out the caller, who was surnamed Yu, was indeed an executive at a company I was hoping to meet at the Fair, and had called to propose a meeting date and time. I gladly agreed.

I had a feeling from this and a variety of other experiences around that time that big changes were just getting started in China.


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