One day, as I was staring idly at the computer screen (trying to inconspicuously finish a couple of solitaire games), one of the lawyers sat down next to me, at the secretaries’ work station, and started typing away on another computer. She had her back to me. Naturally, I minimized the game and did my best to look diligent.
Suddenly, she turned to me and asked, in English, “Are you Rubinstein?”
I turned around startled. She had started talking to me in English? Granted, I was a bit of an English expert at the office – I did some English typing and editing from time to time. But not for her. This was truly odd. Not to mention the question.
“Are you Rubinstein?” she repeated.
I was dumbfounded. I had never been Rubinstein. I had never wanted to be Rubinstein. My name bore no resemblance to it. I stared back at her, wondering what the hell she was on.
She was staring too. Finally, she blurted it out again, “”Are you Rubinstein?”
I scratched my head. Clearly, I had been sucked into an alternate dimension. She was an evil double of some sort and I didn’t know what I could say to appease its growing dissatisfaction. I wanted out of this crazy loop – I didn’t want to have to face that question for the rest of the day. The rest of my life. Forever. Then again, I didn’t know what to answer. She knew I was not Rubinstein. I had definitely worked long enough at that office for her to know my name, in full. And with no ambiguity. Of course my boyfriend’s name was Ruben. Could that have something to do with it?
Then again, he had a beard. I, thankfully, did not.
Finally, it dawned on me. This was a trick question and there was no right answer. We had reached an impasse.
The staring match having lasted long enough now, I hollered at her:
“Am I Rubinstein???”
At this, her eyes positively popped out of their sockets. She looked deranged. Clearly, I had said the wrong thing.
There we were, the office had dissolved around us, the clocks had stopped ticking, the computers had stopped humming and only us two women, hair on end, positively worn out and verging on hysteria.
“How,” she said, switching back to our native tongue, “how can you spell Rubinstein with M, I?”
The haze started to lift. It was a spelling question (and a right dumb one, too). All she wanted was my confirmation that the name Rubinstein is written ‘RU’ etc. etc. And of course the answer I had provided was not at all reassuring. MI? hardly!