The order comes mid-afternoon, as I’m curled in bed reading a pulp novel that’s become addictive mostly for the familiarity of the prose and regular opportunities to inwardly roll my eyes at the book’s wholly unbelievable characters. When it comes, the order produces a sound, more familiar than the contents of the book and so dominant in my cache of daily stimuli it sets off uncontrollable physical reactions. My heart speeds up perceptibly, climbs a few inches upward, threatening the base of my throat.
It’s my messenger program, pumping sound from behind the wall of my bedroom. Have to get up. Finish this page first. I read a few paragraphs, not really absorbing the meaning of any of the words, my head reminding me every other second that I have to get up. So I do.
On the screen, the order waits. How long has it been waiting? A few minutes. A pang of guilt. This could have just been a greeting, but it’s not, and now precious time has lapsed. There’s a phone number, and I’m to call it and reserve a table for four people, for tomorrow.
“For what time?” I ask.
“The time is implicit!”
I parse the response. It gives the impression of a foreign object in an otherwise understandable world of words. What the fuck does that mean? Without any conscious effort, I’ve already decided that the table I’m reserving is located at a restaurant, and that the reservation is for eating. The host will want to know what time the reservation is for. They’re going to ask me, in a language in which I usually have to ask for two or three repetitions to get the jist of what’s being said. I get the idea I should reply with either “evening” or “eight” when the question comes. This seems wholly inadequate, and I think about how this will probably end in disaster tomorrow. I hate this shit, hate how often and how thoroughly things do not make sense. This is taking too long. I call.
On the phone, a single ring followed by vague sounds of construction work. A grumbly, half-audible voice says, “Da.” For a second I wonder if the voice is speaking to someone else. I ask if the man speaks English. No.
I recite the little schpiel I’ve scribbled in my notebook to help me not blank out in panic while trying to speak Romanian. I want to reserve a table for tomorrow night.
A response comes, containing “it can’t be done” followed by a train of complete nonsense. I ask for a repetition. It comes again, thankfully a little slower. It can’t be done because the place is full already. Okay, thanks.
There was no question of time. “The time is implicit” makes perfect sense, and I feel a little ridiculous for having spent so much energy on it.
I remember, from back in the days of public schooling, the particular evil of standardized tests. Multiple-choice questions would occasionally contain an answer that said there wasn’t enough information in the question to correctly solve the given problem. I’d always gravitate towards this choice; more information always seemed to be needed, whether it was an actual piece of content relevant to the problem or some aspect of the question’s wording. In life, the idea that more information is needed to act is always available. It may be a tempting choice, but it isn’t the right one nearly as often as the mind would like.