The woman approached the long, cluttered desk, and waited for a few moments while the man finished a phone call. She was wearing a body length black robe, with a pair of white sneakers peeking out from its bottom. A red leather bag was slung around her right shoulder.
“Hello, I am Anahita,” she said with a slight accent once he had hung up. “I am here to, ah, temp.”
“Hi there, welcome to you. I’m Tim.”
He went to shake her hand, but she took his pinky finger very lightly instead. Shook that.
His face turned crayola pink right then. He remembered reading somewhere that some Muslim women were not allowed to touch the flesh of men who weren’t family. But how could he have known about this, he wondered. The temp agency only listed her name and her previous work experience, saying nothing about cultural mores and expectations.
Years ago the lady would have put on a kind expression, taken a conciliatory tone to explain her action. But, after seven years in America, Anahita was tired of coddling Americans. It didn’t so much bother her that they didn’t know her customs. She was simply tired of their need to analyze and obsess over every little thing that went wrong in their lives. Americans, she decided, could not deal with conflict in the least.
Back in her birth city, arguments were as common as car horns. In fact, you could not leave the house without witnessing at least one shoving match. Drivers would leave their cars in the middle of a busy street in order to butt noses about something.
“We should probably begin with a tour,” offered Tim.
“But first, tell me how to pronounce your name?”
The woman said it quickly and carelessly, barely acknowledging the “ah.”
“Tim, huh?” said Anahita suddenly, cutting him off. “Is that your birth name?”
“No that would be Timothy,” said the man in a chipper tone.
“Teemooooothy?” responded Anahita, stretching out the vowels like silly putty.
“I’m sorry,” she spoke in the sweetest voice she could muster. “Say it for me one more time.”