Friday, October 22, 2010

"Do you know who I am?"

Following the embarrassing experiences I posted this week, here's one more to cap it all off. This happened many years ago but I still remember all the details.

I was manning the reception area of Sugbu Study Center in the early evening when the doorbell rang. I opened the gate and in strode a distinguished-looking gentleman: middle-aged, mestizo, casually yet immaculately dressed in a dark-patterned silken polo shirt, not a hair out of place, right down to the perfectly trimmed moustache. A huge golden ring glistened from his hand.

"Good evening," he said in a deep baritone. He offered his hand. "I'm Joe Romero."

"And...I'm Dominique Cimafranca," I said, shaking his hand. I remember was in jeans and t-shirt at that time.

"Is the director in?" Before I could lead him in, he was already moving towards the house. He was all about presence and confidence.

"He is, but I'm afraid he's currently engaged."

I toured him around the center. He nodded, but otherwise seemed distracted and unimpressed.

"Where is P---?" he asked. "How about S-----? And Fr. A----?" I recognized some of the names of he mentioned, but they were all out.

Finally, he turned to me with utmost gravity and in his deep voice asked:

"By the way, do you know who I am?"

I looked at him for a beat. Then I said the first thing that came to mind:

"Why yes, you just introduced yourself."

"No, I'm the ambassador to Rome!"

"Oh. And I'm the Queen of Sheba."

Alright, I didn't really say that last line, but I felt that I should have. I wasn't terribly impressed, either, but what can I say? I was an engineering student and didn't give a whit about diplomats. Fortunately, one of the older numeraries popped in and took the ambassador out of my hands.

But, yeah, the ambassador is forever on my mind, if only as an object lesson in pomposity.