The interpreter was trying to staple a sign to the notice board on the kiosk down by the lake. It consisted of a piece of laminated paper on which was depicted a partially sliced loaf of white bread inside a red circle, struck through by a diagonal red line. The international symbol for “No Bread.”
The interpreter thought that the deeper meaning might be lost on the vast proportion of the very small fragment of humanity that bothered to look at the notice board. Was it a regulation banning the slicing of bread in the park? Was it a ban on bread made from refined flour? Was it a restriction against baked goods in general? “To me, it symbolizes my bank account,” said the interpreter.
The sign had been created by the interpreter’s supervisor, who was very proud of it. The supervisor was proud of anything she created, no matter how trivial or lacking. At least once a week she would go on a sign-making binge, printing, photocopying, and above all, laminating. Once something was laminated it was as perfect, irrefutable, as good as gold. “Put these up on all the notice boards," she would say to the interpreter, and then shove the slippery pile at him. The interpreter rarely got out the door without half the signs dropping to the floor.
Regarding the “No Bread” sign, the interpreter had asked, “Shouldn’t we add some words beneath the bread, something like, Please do not feed bread to the ducks. It is not healthy for them?”
This provoked a familiar face, disdain pulling towards pity. The supervisor said, “Why clutter up a perfectly understandable sign? You obviously understood what it means. Less is more when it comes to signs. Simple and elegant. Put it up in the kiosk. Refill the brochure rack too.”
The stapler was not up to the task of penetrating the laminated sign plus the plywood backing of the notice board. The staples would crush flat and fall to the ground, leaving behind ugly dents and paired puncture wounds. The interpreter knew the supervisor would be aghast at imperfections on her simple, elegant sign. She sweated the small stuff, let the big issues fester.
The interpreter placed the stapler carefully, squaring it with the edge of the sign, then slammed it hard with the heal of his free hand. The staple had no time to bend. In it went, perfectly. “Ha ha!” cried the interpreter. He was about to line up on the opposite corner.
“Excuse me,” said a young woman who had silently appeared at his side. She was wearing an expensive jogging outfit. Her running shoes were decorated with shiny silver chevrons. She removed a brochure from the rack, Do-It-Yourself Pond Program. It was one of a series of publications designed to help parents, teachers, and other group leaders teach children about nature. And put interpreters out of work, thought the interpreter. The young woman said, “I’m a teacher. I teach at Anderson School.”
“Yes?” said the interpreter. He knew nothing of Anderson School.
“It’s a French Immersion School.”
“Okay,” said the interpreter.
“Well, you should have these programs translated into French, so we can use them for our classes too.”
The interpreter asked, “Can’t you translate them into French?” He assumed that teachers at Anderson School were allotted paid time to prepare their lessons.
“Why should I have to do that?” asked the young woman. “You are the ones supposed to provide nature education to the public.” She stuffed the brochure back into the rack.
The interpreter said, “Well, for one thing, I don’t think any of us speaks French well enough to do it.” He lifted his hand from the No Bread sign, leaving it dangling by its single staple, and turned to face her. “But I’ll recommend to my supervisor that from now on everything we write be translated into French. Maybe she’ll hire someone to do that.” This was one of the interpreter’s mollifying but totally disingenuous replies, meant to assure the public that park staff listened and cared, though really they, that is to say this one, didn’t, especially when speaking to a young person who earned a heck of a lot more money than he did and seemed not to want to work for it.
“Yeah, you should do that,” said the young woman.
The wind gusted and the sign sailed from the notice board, cleanly torn from its neatly stapled corner. It landed beside the young woman’s magnificent shoes. She bent and picked it up. “What’s this supposed to mean, anyway?” she asked. “No bread?”