I will never know how I goofed up the way I did. I work in a lab where the guy who helps run the lab does two things-
1. He makes it a point to write down everything, leave little notes and scraps in papers tucked here, there and everywhere.
2. Whatever he writes, the verb is always, ALWAYS, in the past tense.
Now I thought it would be more of a case of amusement than concern. This is the same guy who in his own words, “Ranned away from Vietnam” about 30 years ago, found himself a job, imported a Vietnamese girlfriend, got married, and raised little kids. And all the time while I listened with fascination about his courageous story, my vision transfixed in between the upright strands of his always oiled, porcupine like hair, I imagined what a great feat it must have been to have “ranned” from Vietnam. I mean did he actually run mountains and valleys, like we often hear in movies? Or did he run for his life towards the airport while mom and dad ran after him, hoping to stop him? My second question- despite the amount of oil present on his head at any given point of time, how does his hair remain perfectly at an angle of 85 degrees with his scalp at any given point of time? These are a few things I mean to ask him someday.
However, there you would find little scraps of paper pasted neatly everywhere, with things written that read like the following-
Very expensive instrument. Handled with care.
Whoever stolen, please returned my favorite knife. No questions will asked.
Please use the knife to cutted the food.
Don’t wasted the buffers. Stored them back.
Please contacted me at this number.
I am leaving on a vacation but will returned in two weeks.
You get the point. In a way, it amused me to think of this guy who fled from his homeland to establish himself in an unknown country, and even with his screwed up tenses, managed to have a job and raise his family. Every day I went to the lab, I would look at the familiar notes stuck on the walls of instruments, refrigerators, incubators, etc. I would read them and re-read them in my mind, till I finally knew which note was stuck where.
And then one fine morning in a meeting with my advisor and the other profs, I finally declared my intent to complete deadlines-
“I will go over the rough draft this weekend and will returned them by next week”.
Shit! I knew I had heard of similar sentence constructions before, but where? And then I remembered- Oh shoot ! Will returned by next week?
I don’t think many heard it, but the few who did were looking at me in amusement, asking me silently what my TOEFL scores were. I mean I wish I could convince them that they had just misheard something. I bit my tongue and rolled up the draft papers to give myself an imaginary whack on the head. I’ll have to stop reading those notes he scribbles from now.
By the way, did you know what someone asked me when I arrived in Seattle? Your English is so good, do you have English schools back in India?
I did not know what to say.