两份讲稿:值得偷吗? / Two Speeches: Good Enough to Steal?

两份讲稿:值得偷吗?

对外国商务旅客来说,时代已经变了。

在中国,像我这样的老人都还记得全国只允许一家航空公司运营的日子。那时候,无论在地面还是在空中,中国国际航空公司(CAAC)的服务都非常糟糕,所以他们会向乘客赠送一些小玩意儿当作礼物,比如钥匙链、扇子等等,还有免费的双喜牌香烟(莫非是想在飞行途中传播被动吸烟的快乐?)旅客要预定和购买机票,必须亲自前往国航的办公地点,而那儿的工作人员的心情似乎常年不好。

如今,在中国,乘机体验已经得到了相当大的改善。至少机上食品和行李托运仍然是免费提供,不像现在乘坐许多美国国内航班那样,得为这些奢侈的要求额外付费。

过去,航空公司普遍赢利,机舱经常半空,机场排队很短。而今天,国际旅客面临着新的难题。

我感到奇怪,为什么每次去机场,我们遭遇墨菲定律的风险似乎总会高于往常。似乎不管怎样,只要某件事可能会出问题,那这个问题在旅行期间发生的几率就更高。行李丢失或被偷、天气原因和机械故障造成航班延误——可能出问题的地方有一大串,各种各样。

尤其可怕的是在旅途中东西被盗,比如钱包、手提电脑、现金、提包之类。

但据我所知,我是唯一一个被偷过讲稿的倒霉旅客。

一次,我从香港飞往伦敦,开始为期三周的欧洲商务旅行,其间我要发表一系列演讲,谈论当时还算是“新兴”的中国市场。那是在1981年,国际商界还远未将中国当成一个“必须做”的市场。虽然改革开放政策已经得以实施,但还远远没有被世界各国所广泛了解。

那时候,只要带上双筷子,哪怕是只猩猩都可能被看成是中国问题的权威,所以我才会收到那么多的演讲邀请。

手提电脑当时还没有诞生,所以我的讲话一般是用打字机在白色A4纸上打出来的,双倍行距,标准九点铅字(现在,恐怕得用三倍行距,18点铅字,加粗,而且全部大写,才更符合我这把年纪的人的视力要求)。

抵达伦敦希思罗机场以后,我住进了市中心的一家酒店,分到一间位于顶层的客房。像伦敦其他酒店的房间一样,这间客房古色古香,价格奇贵。

时值春天的周日下午,房间虽然古雅,但不通气,于是我打开木框窗户,透透空气。我解开行李,收拾停当,准备去找朋友吃晚饭,看演出。我离开了房间。

傍晚我过得特别愉快,然后很早就睡了。第二天是星期一,我有两个演讲,分别要在午餐会和晚宴上介绍与中国做生意的各方面情况。由于面对的听众完全不同,我特意准备了两份完全不同的讲稿。

第二天早晨,我洗漱完毕,穿戴整齐,去衣橱里拿文件箱,准备出门参加第一个会议。

让我震惊和恐惧的是:文件箱不见了!

我找遍了整个房间,一无所获。我意识到,房间一定是在我外出期间失窃了。小偷很可能就是从窗户进来的,我出门吃晚饭和看演出之前忘了把窗户关上。

消失的箱子里除了一些贵重物品之外,还有当天两次演讲的唯一一套讲稿,再有就是我的唯一一个记录趣闻和游记的本子,它兼有情感和实用价值。

我报了警,伦敦警察立即赶到现场,他们很热心,但不能保证能帮我找回失窃的财物。他们把文件箱里的物品以及我在香港的联系方式一一记录下来。

那一天,除了要应付在没有任何讲稿或笔记的情况下发表两个演讲的实际困难,我还对丢失了仅有的旅游和趣闻笔记感到尤为难过。其他被盗的东西还包括我的机票、各类信用卡,等等——补办起来相当麻烦,但至少还可以补办。

尽管这样,我还是成功地发表了两次即席演讲,没有听到嘘声,没有听到哄笑,也没有烂水果扔到讲台上。后来我四处奔忙,办妥了机票、酒店预定,还有信用卡,此后的旅程再没出过乱子。

那是在1981年。

三年以后,我从香港飞往芝加哥的奥黑尔国际机场。芝加哥是我的老家,先父到机场接我。在驾车返家的途中,父亲提起伦敦警方曾好心地抄送给他一封写给我的信。

警方从我的一封私人信件上找到了父亲的地址,为保险起见,他们把我的信抄送给了父亲。

警方在信中解释说,在伦敦和巴黎警方联合展开的一次打击盗窃团伙的行动中,他们在巴黎找到了我的部分私人文件。

他们还表示,如果我愿意支付邮费,他们可以把那些文件寄还给我。

我感到非常的惊讶,因为我早就对找回文件箱里失窃的东西不抱任何希望了。他们能为一个相隔万里的人如此费心,这给我留下了深刻的印象。

我汇去了所需的费用,收到了丢失很长时间的讲稿以及其他文件,其中包括那些游记和趣闻。

虽然直到今天我也没对任何人承认,但当时我还是暗自窃喜:一个国际盗窃团伙竟能如此看重我的讲稿和笔记,甚至还把它保存在贼窝里,而且是在远离盗窃现场的巴黎。这其中似乎还有一丝浪漫色彩。

然而幻想只维持了很短的时间,在重新读过这些讲稿之后,我立刻把它们丢进了垃圾桶,然后倒头大睡。这份关于中国市场的讲稿虽然成文只有三年,但由于中国变化速度太快(现在仍在变),到了我重读的时候就过时了。

从此以后,我再也没有犯过忘记把酒店客房窗户关上的错误。

Two Speeches: Good Enough to Steal?

Times have changed for international business travelers.

In China, oldies like me recall the days of China’s one-airline policy. CAAC’s services, on the ground and in the air, were so bad that they offered passengers small trinkets as gifts — key chains, fans, etc. — as well as free packets of Double Happiness cigarettes (perhaps something to do with spreading the joy of second-hand smoke during the flight?). Making a reservation and buying a ticket required a personal appearance by the traveler at one of their offices, where airline personnel seemed perennially in a bad mood.

Today in China, air travel is a vastly improved story. At least inflight food service and baggage check-in are still free, unlike on many domestic flights in the U.S. where such luxuries are now subject to extra charges.

Nowadays, the international traveler faces new and different challenges than in that by-gone era when airlines were generally profitable, flights were often half-empty, and queues at airports were much shorter.

Why is it, I wonder, that when we head for the airport, there seems to be a higher than usual risk that Murphy’s Law is ready to pounce on us? One way or the other, if something can go wrong, it seems to go wrong more often when we’re traveling. Bags get lost or stolen, weather and mechanical problems cause delays — the list of possible foul-ups is long and varied.

One especially dreaded risk is having something stolen while you’re on the road, such as wallets, laptops, cash, or bags.

As far as I know, however, I am the only unfortunate traveler who has had his speeches stolen.

I flew from Hong Kong to London at the beginning of a three-week European business trip, which involved a series of speaking engagements on the then emerging China market. It was 1981, long before China was widely recognized as a “must do” market for international business. The Open Door and Reform. Policy was in place, but it was far from widely known or understood around the world.

In those days, any chimpanzee with a pair of chopsticks could be passed off as an authority on China, which explains all the speaking invitations I got at the time.

This was long before portable computers, so my typical speech was typed, double-spaced, in standard 9-point type on A4 sized white paper. (Today it would more likely be triple-spaced, 18-point, bold face, and all capital letters — more suitable for the eyesight requirements of my advancing years.)

After arriving at London’s Heathrow airport, I checked into a downtown London hotel and was assigned a room on the top floor. Like so many London hotels, it was a little bit quaint and a whole lot expensive.

It was a Sunday afternoon in spring. Since the room was not only quaint but stuffy, I opened the wooden-framed window to let some air in. I unpacked my things and got ready to meet friends for dinner and a show. Off I went.

After a most enjoyable evening, I went to sleep early. The following day, Monday, I had two speaking engagements — over lunch and dinner. Both were on various aspects of doing business with China, but to very different audiences; so I had prepared two quite different speech texts.

I got up the next morning, shaved and dressed, and then went to take my attaché case from the closet before leaving the room for my first meeting.

Shock and awe: the attaché case wasn’t there.

I searched the room, to no avail, and realized my room had been burgled while I’d been out. The thieves had most likely used the window to gain access, which I had carelessly left open while out for dinner and the show.

Among the other valuables in the missing case were the only copies of both speeches I was to deliver that day. There was also my only copy of a collection of favorite anecdotes and trip notes, which was of sentimental and practical value.

I called the London Police, who arrived promptly and were very helpful, but not very reassuring about the prospects of getting my belongings back. They noted the contents of the case, as well as my contact information in Hong Kong.

Apart from the practical challenges involved in delivering two speeches that day without any notes or text, I was especially saddened by the loss of my sole copy of those travel notes and anecdotes. Other missing items included my airline ticket, various credit cards, etc.–a hassle to replace, but at least replaceable.

Somehow I managed to deliver both speeches off-the-cuff without boos, guffaws or rotten fruit hurled at the podium. I later scurried around and dealt with the air ticket, onward reservations, and credit card issues, and the trip went forward without any further snafus.

That was 1981.

Three years later I flew from Hong Kong into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Chicago is my home town, and I was met at the airport by my late Father. As we drove home, he mentioned that the London Police had kindly copied him on a recent letter they had written to me.

They copied him for safety’s sake because they had found his address on a letter among my personal papers.

Their letter explained that my some of my personal papers had been recovered in Paris during a raid on a burglary ring which had been operating between London and Paris.

They offered to mail the papers to me if I would kindly remit the funds required to cover the postage.

I was flabbergasted, having long since given up hope that anything in the stolen attaché case would ever be recovered. I was also very impressed that the constables had gone to such great effort after such a long time on behalf of someone living so far away.

I remitted the necessary funds, and received the long lost stolen speeches and other papers, including the travel notes and set of anecdotes.

Although I haven’t admitted it to anyone until now, I was secretly flattered by the notion that an international ring of thieves had seen such value in my speeches and notes as to hoard them in their lair. And in Paris yet, far from the scene of the crime. There was a faint air of romance about that, somehow.

This was a fleeting fantasy, however, which I laid to rest after re-reading the speeches and promptly tossing them into the garbage. A three-year old speech on the China market was stale even then, due to the speed with which the place had changed (and continues to change).

I have never again made the mistake of leaving my hotel room window open.


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