Chatting with a woman sat beside him in a language I did not understand, perhaps it was Flemish, the man took out his phone and keyed in a number. A few seconds passed, he spoke in the language he had been using and then began to dictate a letter in English. Perhaps he assumed that English was not readily comprehended by those sitting around, though that seemed unlikely in Brussels Airport; more likely he was unconcerned at the thought that anyone might overhear him.
The letter was sternly worded. It advised that an invoice had been sent and payment had not been received, that the sum of £62,000 Sterling was outstanding, and that the options remaining were rapidly reducing.
It was odd, not that a businessman would feel the need to send a stern letter to someone owing him a significant sum of money; nor that he would use English to phrase the letter, it is the common language between many people who do not speak it as their first language; but that he would make a telephone to an answering service and dictate a letter. It seemed something from the age when secretaries were called to take shorthand notes of letters which would be sent to a typing pool to be turned into words on paper.
Did businessmen like himself not know have voice recognition software on their laptop computers? Did they not have technology to translate spoken words into formal letters? And, even he hadn’t such technology at his fingertips, would it not have been simpler just to have typed an email outlining what he wanted said to the person still owing £62,000?
The businessman did not need to sit in Brussels Airport telephoning the words of a letter in English to his office. Even if he felt the need to give a recorded dictation, rather than using technology or write the letter himself, why would he have needed to speak English for the dictation? If the person typing the letter was sufficiently proficient in English to take the dictation, they would also have been sufficiently proficient in English to have taken dictation in their own language and translated it themselves. It seemed odd.
The telephone call seemed more an assertion of authority than an efficient way of conducting business. The man seemed to want those around to know various things about him, including the fact that he spoke fluent English, that he did business that ran into large sums, and that he was a tough man who would deal severely with those who did not comply with his wishes. Using a phone call to post one’s ego seemed an archaic way of doing business.