How deep is trust, one might well ask. And the reply may well be, ‘You only have to scratch the surface to find out!’ When Robert Chan (not his real name) first met the Andersons a decade ago, he was one of the just-arrived in Australia.
A single father, with two young boys aged 11 and 12, he was overjoyed to find good friends so early on arrival. Chan and the Andersons ran into each other on the church steps on Chan’s first Sunday in his new country.
The more apt term might be ‘stumbled upon’ because on his way out of church Chan didn’t notice there was a second stone step to negotiate and so, having missed his footing and lost his balance, fell straight into the sturdy arms of Cyril Anderson.
After ten years of note taking, her own watch broke down and needed a battery. Off she went to Robert Chan who told her it would take about four hours
After embarrassedly righting himself and dusting off invisible specks of dirt from his shirt, Chan introduced himself and thus began a friendship.
The Andersons had two boys of their own, older. They went out of their way to give Chan advice on schooling and admission for his own boys. They then helped him find proper accommodation near the school where the boys went. The Chans became regular invitees to Australia’s version of ‘tea’ which is really dinner.
Chan brought with him to Australia his profound skills in watch repair. His understanding of the insides of a watch, its mechanics and its moods, was second to none. Here too, Cyril Anderson helped in getting his watch store set up in a prime location in the local shopping mall.
In time, the Chan boys graduated from high school and took up vocational education. Word of mouth is the most successful form of advertising, and it was the Andersons who, by telling all their friends and having their friends tell their friends, like widening ripples managed to spread the word about Chan’s business.
The result: nearly anybody who had a watch, an alarm clock, a wall clock that was faulty … their first thought was, ‘Let’s get this thing over to Chans.’ Mary Anderson, Cyril’s elderly mother who everyone called Nana Anderson, was the solitary cynic in all these successful goings-on over the decade. She alone, very early on, pointed a finger at her son Cyril at the dining table one evening and said, ‘Watch that man. I don’t think he’s on the straight.’
Cyril’s wife, Laura, quietly whispered to her husband later, ‘I think mum’s getting delusional.’ When Cyril asked his mother, ‘What proof have you got, mum?’ she replied, ‘Well there’s that time you let him have your car and he said he’d just driven his boys to school and back. Well, the school is not 150km away, is it?’ Turns out, Nana was closely monitoring the car’s odometer.
Cyril shrugged it off. But Nana Anderson turned herself into super sleuth after noting that first clue. She began drawing up a list of ‘shady’ ventures. After ten years of note taking, her own watch broke down and needed a battery. Off she went to Robert Chan who told her it would take about four hours.
‘Four hours? To change a battery?’ ‘Lots of other orders in the queue,’ said Robert apologetically. Four hours later, the watch was ready. ‘Brand new battery,’ Robert told her, ‘Last you another ten years.’ ‘Open it,’ commanded Nana. ‘What?’ asked Chan, perplexed. ‘Open the watch. Remove the back cover.
Show me the new battery. If it doesn’t have a scratch on it, I will apologise. If it does, then you haven’t change it at all but just charged it. And that’s cheating. And you know what, Robert, that’s a serious display of thanklessness for the trust we all have put in you.’ Scratch the surface, as has been said.
Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia