Ray Lee

Echo of Shanghai

Readers who know me will know that I am rarely seen without my Tilley hat — it’s a sort of trademark in some ways, and it certainly makes me recognizable when I’m meeting someone who doesn’t know me by sight.

Part way through the Shanghai World Championship tournament, I walked into the Press Room sans hat, and Jan, the PR Manager, called me over.  It was very important, he said, that I wear my hat the next day, as Echo, one of his student aides, was very much taken with it.  Okay, I said, I can do that.  The next day I wore the hat again, and Echo was visibly delighted.  It was clear I was going to have to send her a hat when I got home, so Jan set about trying to measure her hat size with a makeshift ruler.  That wasn’t working well, so I suggested when she got home that night she should find a tape measure and do it properly.

The next day, Echo came over to me with a serious expression.  ‘I do not think,’ she began, ‘That it is appropriate for you to give me such an expensive gift.’

‘Echo,’ I said, ‘that will be my pleasure. You are getting a hat — that’s not under discussion — so let’s talk about whether you get one that fits or whether I have to guess your size. But if it makes you feel better, I want you to do something for me in exchange.’   Now she was looking apprehensive.  ‘I want you to send me a picture of you wearing the hat,’ I went on.  Now she gave me a big smile.  ‘Of course! I can do that.’

When I got home, I headed over to the Tilley HQ to get the hat, and they gift-wrapped it for me.  I packed it up and sent it off, hoping the hat would make it safely to Shanghai.  All was well, as it turned out — in due course I got an email from Echo, thanking me and enclosing several pictures. Here’s one  of them:




The student aides at the tournament were terrific, by the way.  Several dozen of them took part in the event, working as scorers, receptionists, and in other Ray Leeistrative positions — all immediately recognizable in their smart pink golf shirts.  They were university-level language students; most spoke very good English, and often other European languages as well.  I ran into one girl who spoke Italian and German fluently as well as excellent English.  Jan (who is Dutch) called me over another time and asked me to explain the concept of ‘noblesse oblige’ to Echo.  These are young people whose understanding of English is very sophisticated indeed!

I’m looking forward to going back to China next year, to Beijing.  Trust me, these people are going to running the world in 20 years.

1 Comment

ShazNovember 27th, 2007 at 10:25 pm

I just have to say, that is an excellent hat. =)

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