欢迎来到美洲!/ Welcome To America!

 

他们在西方资本主义世界遇到的第一个银行出纳员…… / The first bank teller they met in the capitalist west…

欢迎来到美洲!

上世纪80年代初,我协助安排一个中国内地省份的代表团出访北美。代表团成员都是第一次出国。可以理解,他们心情十分激动。

在纽约稍作停留后,我们来到了多伦多。

抵达后的第一天,我们首先参观了郊区的一家技术水平很高的印刷厂。参观结束后,厂方用咖啡、茶和点心招待我们,还送给每位代表团成员一顶印有该公司标志的棒球帽。

团员们表示感谢,戴上蓝色的棒球帽,分乘几辆汽车前往市中心的一家高级私人会所,应邀出席某个有影响的商业团体举办的午宴。

途中,我们路过了一家加拿大银行的郊区支行,代表团的差旅费正是从中国银行汇至这家银行的。

代表团的翻译和团长任命的财务负责人一起走进这家加拿大银行支行,看看能否提取旅费。

我跟在他们后面,因为我感觉,他们也许需要帮助。毕竟,这是他们平生头一回进入资本主义国家的银行,而在这个国家只参观了一两天。

一走进银行的大门,我就意识到自己作为导游,出现了严重的疏忽。我光顾着忙其他事情,没有注意到,那天是个重要的日子。因而,我忘了提醒代表团,那天是万圣节。这是我犯下的大错。

近年来,万圣节在中国越来越为人熟知,原因之一是很多饭店、俱乐部、酒吧都组织以万圣节为主题的派对和宣传活动。但是在20世纪80年代初,中国很少有人听说过万圣节和北美的过节习俗。

通常,在万圣节的晚上,要举行派对,按照习俗,孩子们会穿上化装服,按邻居家的门铃,索要糖果。不过,在当天的那个时刻,万圣节开始得有点早。这家银行支行的全体员工都穿着疯狂、古怪的万圣节服装。欢迎到北美来!

他们打扮成牛仔、太空人、魔鬼,还有好几个幽灵。接待这两位第一次从中国来的客人的女出纳员则装扮成小丑的模样,顶着一头桔黄色、毛茸茸的乱发,还带了个大红色的橡胶圆鼻头。

第一次走进资本主义银行的两位团员认真地和“小丑”攀谈了起来。

他们非常努力地在资本主义的银行体系展现出完全放松和熟悉的样子,希望被人看成是一个有经验的老手,而不是乡下土包子。总之,他们没有流露出惊讶的迹象。

更加添彩的是,他们头上还带着艳蓝色的棒球帽,所以和其他的奇装异服搭配得非常好。

等我跟上他们的时候,资本主义“小丑”已经向两位团员解释,他们必须到城里的银行总部去取钱。两人平静地接受了这个建议,向门口走去,我拦住了他们。

我问他们有没有被银行里的什么异常情况吓到,他们回答说:“没有,真的。挺好!”

我向他们解释那天是万圣节,并为事先没有提醒他们这一天人们会化装出行——甚至去上班——表示道歉。

回到车上,我继续向团长王先生介绍万圣节的来历。他饶有兴趣地听着,但我感觉他们都认为这一切十分奇怪,特别是在工作场所装扮成那种样子。

很快,我们抵达了举行午宴的私人会所。有人提醒过我,和其他高端会所一样,这里也是较为正式、古板和保守的场所。

于是,当头戴艳蓝色棒球帽的王先生和其他团员下车,走向会所门口,我叫住了王先生,建议他们先把帽子摘下来。

可怜的王先生彻底被搞糊涂了:“你刚刚不是说今天是万圣节吗?!”

我试图说明,资本主义银行支行的万圣节气氛可能比高档私人会所里浓厚得多。

无论此前还是以后,我都没有再在别的银行里遇到过穿着化装服的银行职员。

Welcome To America!

In the early 1980s I helped arrange a delegation visit from one of China’s interior provinces to North America. It was the first overseas trip for the Chinese delegates. They were understandably quite excited.

After a brief stopover in New York, we arrived in Toronto.

Our first visit that first day in Toronto was to a fairly high-tech printing plant in the suburbs. After the factory tour, our hosts served coffee, tea and some snacks, and gave each one of the delegates a baseball cap with their company logo on it.

The grateful delegates put on their blue baseball caps, and off we went in several cars, heading for a fancy private club downtown where we had been invited for lunch by an influential business group.

Halfway downtown we passed by a suburban branch of the Canadian bank to which the Bank of China had wired the delegation’s travel money.

The group’s interpreter and the delegate who had been put in charge of financial matters by the group leader, went in to see if they could obtain their funds at this Canadian bank’s branch.

I went after them because I had a feeling they might need some help . This was, after all, their first visit to a bank in a capitalist country, and only the second or third day of the visit at that.

As I walked through the doors I realized I had failed miserably as the delegation’s guide. I had been too busy with other things to pay attention to the significance of that day’s date, so I did not alert the group to the fact it was Halloween Day . Big mistake on my part.

In recent years, awareness of Halloween in China has grown, in part because many hotels, clubs and bars organize Halloween-themed parties and promotions. But in the early 80s, very few people in China had ever heard of Halloween or the customs associated with it in North America.

Normally, Halloween parties and the custom of young children wearing costumes and ringing their neighbors’ doorbells in search of candy occur on the evening of Halloween Day . On this particular occasion, however, Halloween started a bit early. All the staff in this particular bank branch were wearing wild and crazy Halloween costumes. Welcome to North America!

The staff costumes included a cowboy, a space man, a devil, and several ghosts. The woman teller that the two first-time visitors from China were talking to was dressed as a clown, with wild fluffy orange hair and a big round red rubber nose.

In their first visit to a capitalist bank, my two delegates were earnestly engaged in conversation with a clown.

They were trying very hard to appear to be perfectly relaxed and at home in the capitalist banking system, not wanting to appear like country bumpkins, but rather experienced old hands. They showed no sign of being surprised in any way.

To add color to the scene, they were still wearing their bright blue baseball caps, so they blended in rather nicely with all the other costumes .

By the time I reached them, the capitalist clown had explained they would have to go to the bank’s head office downtown to obtain their funds. They took this calmly and were beginning to head for the door when I intercepted them.

I asked if anything here in this bank struck them as unusual. “No, not really. Just fine.” was their answer.

I explained that it was Halloween and apologized for not warning them beforehand that people sometimes wear costumes, even – once in awhile — in the work place on this day.

I continued my explanation of the background of Halloween after we got back into the car with the delegation head, Mr. Wong. He listened with interest, but I had a feeling they all thought the whole thing was quite bizarre, especially costumes in the work place.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at the private club for lunch. I had been warned that, like many upmarket private clubs, it was a bit of a formal, stuffy, conservative place.

Therefore, when Mr. Wong and the other delegates got out of the cars and headed for the club entrance, still wearing their bright blue baseball caps, I called out to Mr. Wong suggesting it would be better to remove the caps before going in.

Poor Mr. Wong was now thoroughly puzzled. “But you just said it was Halloween?! ”

I tried to explain how it could be possible that the spirit of Halloween was much stronger in the capitalist bank branch than it was in the upmarket private club.

I have never, before or since, been into another bank where the staff were wearing costumes.


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