Return to Hovořime s hostem
This has its comic aspect, although of course nonprofit board meetings are not by definition humorous.
First off, it is our experience that friends in the US have a hard time grasping that there is a significant time difference between there and here. Thus, surely it can be no inconvenience to us that a board meeting begins at nine—no, actually ten—at night Prague time! (If it began at, say 5:00pm, Jesse would have been able to accomplish the whole thing in Brno at his tutor’s, but she does not stay up as late as I do.) Thus, we had to amuse ourselves between supper and the onset of the meeting, as installing my modem software onto his computer and testing Skype did not take as long as it initially seemed it might. (That is, once I located the software.)
Consequently, we have now compiled a large selection of dissertations on Czech topics that I had acquired, and have put them on a CD. This led to that perennial topic (no, not prams), the Pragocentrism of American researchers. Well, I can’t help it that Toyen lived in Prague rather than in Brno or Ostrava. (I received a personal exemption but had to point out that I do read the papers of people like Artuš Černík, a Brno inhabitant.)
The dissertations did not quite fill the entire CD so we then picked out a nice selection of Czech art to add to round it out. There was a time when it seemed that Toyen was too startling for Jesse’s taste, but he has become acclimated. I was even able to interest him in Štyrský’s collages of the Holy Family and all of the collages in Emilie příchází ke mně ve snu. Leaving the Czechs, Max Ernst’s Strength through Sport also went down well. I don’t know what will happen if he accidentally shows these in the course of a lecture on Moravian folk performance. It will certainly give the audience a different impression of what could be considered folkloric. (Well, I don’t have very much folkloric art on my laptop yet. It isn’t as though I don’t like it.)
So, here we have the board meeting via that vital textbook Hovořime s hostem.
As host here, I could initially say “I don’t understand English, I’ll call my colleague.” It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a colleague, I can go away and come back in the guise of one.
Jesse could then remark “We’ve come to Prague again,” and “We always liked it here.” As far as I know there is only one of him, but you never know. He could have a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde personality. After all, he looks very inoffensive but he does like my sibling’s new web site.
I can then say “Are you expecting somebody?” and “Please speak more slowly for me to understand you better.”
If Jesse says “I’d like a double room with bath for three nights,” I will have to point out that the choice of places to sleep has not changed since his last visit. If he then tells me “I booked two rooms in the name of Mr. M. over the phone,” I will say I thought he was someone else. It ought, however, to be enough to say “I can offer you one of our best rooms.”
If Jesse is a trifle confused, he might say “I want to put a call through to Brno.” (It’s true that the meeting is in Chicago, but his mind is usually on Brno.)
I could say “The telephone is next to the porter’s lodge.”
If I feel a bit testy at hosting a conference call in my living room, I can say “Sorry, this table is reserved.” After all, it was being used for gift-wrapping and general debris. On the other hand, I might feel honored that my phone connection is so strong, whereupon I could say “I hope you’ll enjoy the stay.”
I could also say “As soon as I get connection, I’ll put the call through to your room.”
Jesse might then have to respond that “They haven’t answered.”
I could then say “Excuse me, you’re wanted on the phone.” This could be varied with “The line is engaged. Wait a moment please,” if I feel mischievous. I could add “Here is the telephone directory, sir (madam)” and “For calls outside the hotel dial number two first.”
Before long, I suppose I should say, sternly, “The members of the group are waiting for you.”
Since the meeting will last for hours, it will be better if I point out that “The lavatory is next to the cloakroom.” Likewise, if I feel very hospitable, I can inquire “What can I bring you?” If the meeting goes on longer than anticipated, I might need to ask “What would you like for breakfast (lunch, supper)?” Or “Anything else you wish?”
If anyone else shows up at my door, we can point out that “The meeting of the Koospol corporation is taking place on the groundfloor further back. (Never mind that the nonprofit upon whose board Jesse sits cannot properly be called a corporation, or that my apartment is not on the ground floor.)
The various members of the board can open by saying “We hope you’ll have fine weather.”
Jesse may at some point turn to me and remark “We can’t make up our minds. Could you give us advice?”
If Jesse has been silent long enough to appear comatose, I can inquire “Is everything all right?”
Indeed, if the interest value of the meeting flags, Jesse may need to say (away from the microphone) “Can you bring me English newspapers?”
After a time, I might say “Here’s a glass of water and a head-ache pill.”
If Jesse feels that the meeting has gone on far too long, he could try telling the other board members “Tonight there’s a performance of a cymbal group.” If they are perceptive, they will grasp that the lure of the cimbalom group is stronger than that of the nonprofit board meeting.
I can then say, “Have you been satisfied?” and “Thank you for your visit. We hope to see you again.”
Of course, I can finish by stating “This is the charge for the trunk-call.”
(Note: Jesse was re-elected during the meeting. That must mean it went well.)