Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Malaysian Housekeeper

As Peter finished telling the story, our breakfast was arriving. “I guess we’ve all experienced our little coincidences,” I offered, “but that one surely takes the cake”.

“I’m not so sure.” My father had spoken up. “I think I have a better one.”

 When we left off yesterday, I was telling you about an unusual breakfast conversation in the Pancake House one Sunday morning. My brother-in-law had just finished telling the story about how we'd run into a world-famous saxophone player in the hotel lounge the previous night...a New York musician whom Peter had been planning to contact the very next week! An amazing coincidence...but my father thought he could do Peter one better....

* * * * *

And then he began his story. It seems that during his years in the Schreyer government in the 1970’s, he had had the opportunity to do a certain amount of world travelling. In particulary, as Minister of Mines and Resources, he had been sent to a conference in Argentina on Water Resources (a topic on which I have previously written in this very column), where he made a point of looking up the Israeli delegation. As it happened, he quickly hit it off with a colleague of his own age whom he ended up taking to dinner. That colleague turned out to be one Shaul Arlosoroff.

A lifelong friendship ensued. On a subsequent trip to Asia some years later, my father made a point of visiting Arlosoroff in Singapore, where he had been posted on an overseas assignment. During that visit, he had also met Arlosoroff’s Asian housekeeper, who told him she was planning to move to Canada in the future. My father gave her his card, so she could call him up if she ever made it to Winnipeg.

Fast forward five years. Arlosoroff was in North America, and he had arranged a stopover in Winnipeg to visit my father. They were in the basement playing pool when the conversation turned to his Malaysian housekeeper. Whatever had happened to her? Had she ever made it to Canada? Arlosoroff’s face darkened. In fact, she had. He believed she had gone to Toronto, but he had lost touch with her. He was in fact concerned that something bad might have happened.

 At that moment, my mother came down the stairs carrying the phone. (No…I must correct myself. This was still back in the prehistoric days when all telephones were connected to the wall by a physical cord.) There was a woman on the phone, and she was calling for Shaul. “But I didn’t give anyone your number,” he protested. “Who knows that I am here?”

It turned out the caller wasn’t exactly looking for Shaul. She had in fact called for my father, hoping to ask him Shaul’s phone number, which she had lost. She was none other than the Malaysian housekeeper, alive and well, and calling long distance from Toronto. And she had called us in Winnipeg on the very day, the one day in ten thousand, when Shaul happened to be in our house…and almost at the very moment when she herself was the topic of conversation!

The waitress came around to fill our coffees. “You know,” I said, “that’s an incredible story. But if Arlosoroff were here and we asked him to tell about his most amazing coincidence, he might tell a different story.”



Bob Wolfe said...
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Bob Wolfe said...

That was a hoot of a read. Hahaha! Who knew, right? Maids can really play a really helpful role in our lives, not only in terms of the work, but with how they add to our personal narratives as well. Thanks for sharing that! All the best!

Bob Wolfe @ The Maids of the Triad