Sunday, September 02, 2007
A Ringing Success
Take, for example, the task of buying jewelry that is appropriate for a woman. It doesn't sound that difficult at first, until people start asking really specific questions that involve precise measurements we've never used before, like "cut" and "carat," and suddenly the whole experience begins to feel like a sprained ankle.
It gets worse when the man has to think about buying such a piece of jewelry in a country were no one selling it speaks his language, such as Korea. One might be under the impression that the nice but insistent Korean jewelry vendor is asking questions such as, "In what cut would you like this carat?" or "In what carat would you like this cut?" If we knew for sure that this was the manner of question they were asking, we could at least take comfort in the fact that we wouldn't even know the answer in English.
However, it's particularly frustrating when you suspect that it's a simple question, like "Will you pay in cash or in incremental installments for the next few decades?" It's particularly frustrating because you know that you'd understand what kind of questions they were asking if you'd bothered to study the language a bit harder, rather than spend most of your free time watching Wallace & Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures.
Even if the task is eventually performed successfully, buying jewelry for a woman in a non-English speaking country is a challenge that can leave a man with a feeling normally associated with a strained hamstring.
Harder than any of these would be buying a piece of jewelry for a woman, knowing that this is a purchase that is likely to change the course of one’s life. How can a man best choose an item that will summarize everything he has ever felt for a woman in all the months he has known her, all in something that will fit on her finger?
How can he purchase something that encapsulates everything he wants to promise her? Furthermore, if he finds such an item, will he be able to purchase it in cash, or will he have to pay in installments for the next several decades? This goes beyond a strained or sprained anything, and into hyper-extended knee territory.
As hard as these may seem, imagine how hard it must be to make a life-changing jewelry purchase for a woman in a foreign country. Picture yourself standing before a nice but insistent Korean jewelry vendor as they promote an assortment of items, any of which appears to have life-changing potential but nearly all of which look awfully similar.
"This one can summarize everything you've in the months you've known her and it fits on her finger," the nice but insistent vendor says.
"What?" you might reply.
"Or you may choose this one, which encapsulates everything you want to promise her," this nice but insistent Korean says.
"Huh?" you might respond.
If handled improperly, this is a situation so difficult that it has hernia potential. Fortunately, there is a proper way to handle such an occasion, and that is to befriend an English-speaking native of this country, preferably female, and preferably one who has been married herself. You should have her handle most of the communicating, as well as a good deal of the selection. Your main duty will be to make the final choice, and then wait for her to signal you as to when and how much you have to pay.
Of course, there’s really more to it than that. For example, you won't feel like you're looking hard enough unless you visit at least three such stores, seen all the permutations of price within them, as well as the possible ways that they can stack a diamond on top of a piece of something called "white gold."
However, if you have chosen the correct married-English-speaking-native woman to guide you, after the third store she will say something like, "We should choose now. If you go to anymore stores, I think you will just be more confused."
"My intestines hurt," you might respond.
I can knowledgably say all of these things, because I have endured this journey in a foreign land and I have emerged with the prize in hand. The price of it is not important (not to you, anyway, but to me it's equal to an awful lot of Wallace & Gromit DVDs), all that matters is that it was fit to give to the person for whom it was intended.
Now, whatever hernia-inducing journeys lie ahead of me in this foreign land, I'll have someone to face them with.
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