TITLE: PASSIONS & ROOTS
AUTHOR: RALPH (Rafik Baladi)
ABSTRACT: “Rafi” was born in Port Said,
Egypt in 1951, of Greek Orthodox
origin. He holds a BA in Mass Communication with
minor in Modern Drama and English Literature. He took
part in major plays by Tchekov, Pirandello, Ibsen, Gorki
and Shakespeare. He plays classic piano and studied
and music theory, and performed major concerts from
J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Rahmaninof.
Six months later,
I joined a telecommunication
service team (Call-Net) as a telephone
sales representative. I sold nothing for the
first six months. Then, in August of 1989,
the company's president, Mr. Mike Kedar,
a Jewish gentleman, the first to trust in me
since my immigration from Egypt, invited
all the team to supper and drinks at the
Le Grand Hotel in Montreal. After a few
drinks, I said some jokes, genuinely. He
was flipping. I was in ecstasy, yet I almost
asked him to forgive me if I was too
nervous at the office and failed to sell.
Instead, he told me, “… Rafik, [my real
name is Rafik, my new name, Ralph],
I loved your jokes, buddy. That's what you
need to do on the phone. Don't be
ridiculous, but just be yourself.” “You have
been waiting for a long time.” I said. “I will
wait again buddy. You can do it. It'll come”,
said good old Mike.
I had had so much strain lately, that when
he uttered those words, my eyes turned
cloudy. I think, he noticed it. I hope he
knew I meant to say thank you.
I slept like a king that night. Next day, I
went to work again, tried hard but in vain.
I had set myself some procedure to qualify
prospects and decided to tape my voice at
home so as to evaluate my
performance on the phone.
On the way back home,
despair and the hope that Mike had pumped into me
two days earlier, I changed connections
at the Atwater subway station so as to
ride the Saint Laurent Subway line.
I was determined to tape that wretched
voice of mine. To my right, standing in
the subway connection, I noticed the
long escalators, going up to no end.
There was a nice respectable elderly
lady, say seventy, who was half way on
the escalators, holding elegantly, the
stair rails, heading upwards to the main
exit of the subway station. Then, two
male teenagers, seemingly irresponsible
or uncaring, went running up the electric
stairs like frogs, walking past the woman,
indifferently, heading towards the huge
glass doors at the main exit. The lady
arrived to the end of the stairs, and, to
my utter dismay, the long-haired kids
rushed to grab the huge doors ahead of
her not even looking at her.
Then, the blow! One of them looked
back, smiled and bowed to her. The other held
the door open to have
her pass through. She
caressed the left
elbow of the lad
standing by the
door and nodded
to the other, just like
I did to dad twenty-five years earlier at the
fruit store, in Cairo. My eyes clouded again.
I forgot to tape my voice that night and
slept in ecstasy.
Next day, I went to work and bombarded
the phone. I made my first sale that very
day. Next week, I made three more sales.
I asked my team members if we could do
“Happy Hour”. We did. I had so much fun.
I loved it.
By November, that year, I was the most
productive of the twelve sales people.
In December, I did the same. And, at
another party thrown by Mike Kedar, he
handed me a fat commission cheque, just
before Christmas. Then, I grabbed his
elbow, and muttered “Thank you”. I wanted
to say, “…the worst was over. I was finally
Canadian, by passion, Egyptian by roots.
I could react and interact,
just like the rest.”
This article was originally published in Cross Cultures Magazine in Volume 10 - Issue 1 - 2004. Unauthorized copying, distribution or other usage without express written permission of the publisher is prohibited.