by Chandroo D.
I am going back in time to1968 when I was working with my elder brother "D" in Hong Kong. He ran an Export company and during that year, most of our sales were to USA and surprisingly, the best sellers were wigs made from human hair. We used to import human hair from Indonesia and have the local factories in Hong Kong manufacture the wigs for us to export to USA. I still remember the favourite colour JL60 - Blonde, which sold the most.
Business was stable, but it required a personal touch in knowing your clients well and that meant traveling to USA to meet them and know their requirements specifically and improve sales. This is were I came in. Being young and energetic at that time, my brother decided to send me to USA.
My job was to fly to San Francisco via Taipei, Tokyo, Honolulu on a PanAm flight and then travel round the United States visiting around 20 cities where our clients were based. My mode of travel would be Greyhound buses and occasionally planes. My nights would be spent in motels such as Travel lodge, Best Western and Holiday Inn. Those days an average room rate would cost between US$ 25- and US$ 50- per night. Meals would be normally hot dogs, hamburgers, pizzas, cokes and milk shakes in order to economize expenditure. An occasional Coors, Budweiser or Colt 45 beer would be a treat, if I had good sales. The planned schedule sounded exciting for a young bachelor like me who looked forward to travel abroad and see the other side of the world. So off I went.
During those days I used to sport a pencil thin moustache. I guess it was a great front to attract women. There was a time when I was travelling from San Francisco to San Diego on a Greyhound bus. Once we arrived San Diego, I got off and was pulled aside by the local Sheriff. He demanded on seeing my identity. I produced my passport. He looked at the photo and back at me confused, scratching his head. He questioned, "How come you have a moustache and the passport photo does not?" "Is that really you?". "Of course, it is me”, I replied. "In that case, I recommend that you shave it off, as I presumed you were a wetback", he responded. Wetback? But my back was dry! Boy, was I dumb!.. because soon I realized that a wetback was a term used for a person of Mexican descent who used to cross Rio Grande which formed the border between Texas and Mexico, presumably by swimming across the river and getting wet in the process.
Afraid to be pulled aside again, I sadly said good bye to my Clarke Gable look from that day onwards.
One of my stops was Rome, Georgia. I travelled to Rome from Atlanta, Georgia on the Greyhound bus. My bus stopped at a gas station on a deserted highway. I had to wait for my client to pick me up. Meanwhile with no mobile phones those days, I waited nervously like a statue, watched by a fierce Doberman. Soon after about an hour, my client drove by and brought me to my motel.
Those days, Rome was a small town with a very small population. It was like entering a western cowboy movie set. Half empty streets with a few shops around. Everyone seemed to know one another and surprisingly most of them knew who I was. Word had got around, that a foreigner was visiting Rome from Hong Kong. Grand hospitality was around me every hour.
After all the entertainment during the night, I finally laid my head on the pillow in my room and went to sleep. During the night I was waken by a shake and rattle (luckily not a roll). I thought my vibrating bed had gone bonkers and I immediately hit on the control to stop it. All of a sudden I saw the TV which was on the wall, swinging from side to side. The cabinet and the chairs started to move. I jumped out of the bed. The first thing on my mind was..is the room haunted? No it was not! I realised it was an earthquake. But how come? We were in the middle of USA with no ocean around. I have never heard of an earthquake in the middle of USA. From my past experience in Rangoon, Burma where I was brought up, we were taught to either get under the bed or stay under the door frame of an exit. Since my room at the motel was on the ground level, I opened up the door and stood under the door frame. There was panic outdoors and many guests were outside the motel and asked me to get away from the door. Figuring they had a point, I too moved away from the motel and joined the small crowd, shivering away in my shorts. Eventually it got calmer and we decided to return back to bed. As I walked back to my room, an elderly lady pinched my bottom and said, "we should meet up more often". No way, my dear! I was happy to be leaving the next day.
The next day, I found out that a major earthquake did take place in midwest and it rippled out to nearby states. I must confess that during that particular moment, I was totally shaken up and thought the end was near and my dreams of an ambitious future was over. Come to think of it now, I consider myself lucky to live through this event. Someone up above was watching over me. More on my next memorable moment.