It was dark out now because I'd overslept during afternoon nap. I really needed to get to the supermarket quickly, before closing time, for veges and water. Can't wait for the elevator, just leaped down the steps, full of joy.
As I entered the hotel lobby, I greeted the desk clerks as usual, simply with a nod and smile. Tonight there was a man and woman, the woman wearing a hijab, the head covering indicating her religion as Islam (That is the only religious identifier here that I feel certain of. Men only don their Islamic dress on Fridays, when going to mosque. Followers of Christianity, Buddhism/Chinese traditional religions, and native traditional religions provide no visible clues that I am aware of. Yet when I sported a beard with no mustache in Singapore, everywhere I went Muslims asked if I was also a Muslim. That was pre-9/11/2001, before Europe and US started harassing and arresting people that looked too Muslim, and before Muslim countries started harassing and arresting people that didn't look sufficiently Muslim. Now my dream is for a religious identifier of my own, indicating "None of the above"). The woman responded with a smile but, to my surprise, she also spoke some words! But I could not make out what they were.
"Excuse me?", I said. She replied, but it still drew a blank. The young man was now also smiling, obviously amused at my cluelessness. My mind walked through the checklist of possibilities: hotel bill already paid, housekeeping service was yesterday, no deliveries expected - what in the world could she be talking about? Embarrassed, I asked her to repeat again, as I mustered up maximum concentration on her sounds:
Wait - what?? Who is Marie Quidmar - and why do I care?
Back to identifiers: here names beginning with that "Qu" sound are typically Muslim names (from Arabic sounds, like "Quran"). Could she be introducing herself to me? Have no idea why she would be doing that, but who cares - I need to get out. But just as I was about to respond "Nice to meet you, Ms. Quidmar" and rush out, she tipped her head towards a garish little mock tree in the corner, and I was flushed with a rapid sequence of realization, embarrassment, then amusement, before replying:
"And Marie Quidmar to you too!"And barely made it to the supermarket before closing.