Saturday, June 18, 2005

Amigo - Sprechen Sie Englisch? Mais oui!

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Some people have nightmares that they are standing naked in the middle of a crowd. Psychologists sometimes tell those folks that they believe themselves to be fakes and thus are unmasked in their dreams.

My nightmare is more about not knowing something I think I should. And so when I walked into a meeting at a convention of CPAs in San Francisco, in which a specialist from the U.S. Treasury was discussing accounting projects for a CPA 'Technical Resource Panel," I wasn't dreaming, I was in the nightmare.

At first, I thought perhaps the editor who had sent me had coached the CPAs around the table - and the speaker - to talk in such uncomprehensible jargon as sort of a prank. It sounded almost like German, where most English speakers can pick up about every third word if they listen really carefully.

Well, it wasn't a joke and it wasn't German.

But inside of 15 minutes I had written down 15 acronymns to look up later, acronyms that meant nothing to me, but obviously were so common with the 12 people in the meeting they needed no explanation.

LMSB, SAB101, EAG and a dozen others came at me like I was playing dodgeball with a totally pissed-off octopus. I began to long to be one of those people who dreams about being naked in a crowd.

But about a half-hour into it, just about when I was ready to simply march out, get my bags from my room and go find a nice Wal-Mart to work at, a truly weird thing happened.

I began to understand some of what they were saying, as if my ears had been plugged up and suddenly were beginning to clear. Note that I said some. The goons at Guantanamo could flush this blog down the toilet to torture me all they want, but I couldn't tell them what-the-hell happened exactly. But I have the meeting on a digital recorder, some basic ideas and themes that seemed to be in play, and notes about when people's eyebrows arched - or they snorted at the Treasury specialist's comments.

Most important, I have the Treasury guy's phone number and email address and a solid committment from him to chat with me Monday on the telephone to give me a recap of what went on.

No es un problema para mi, amigo. (It's not problem for me, buddy.) Soy periodista! (I'm a journalist!)

And this non-CPA, non-German-speaking journalist will sleep a lot better when this damned story is written and sent to the big chiefs in Washington D.C. sometime Monday. Si?


Auf wiedersehen.
Au revoir.

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