He finished a second cinnamon roll, patted his flat stomach. Looked at the demitasse of black coffee in his right hand. Still half full, not still hot.
He stood up ignoring the hand holds and wrote ‘C#rh€M’ on the nearest flout board. He added five lines of exotic symbols.
The flout board verbalised his scrawl. The others heard it in their own languages, everything impeccably translated except that first word.
‘That’s my name back home,’ he said, watching to see who understood. ‘C#rh€M, but since we are among friends you can call me Sir.’
He saw the old lady’s eyes crinkle with suppressed laughter. Two guests made note-taking gestures to flash-remember. The others looked blank.
He went on, ‘I am 140 years old today. How about you? I will still be around until I turn 167.’
The lady’s eyebrows went up, slightly. Everyone else watched his demitasse, but she looked straight at his face.
‘Then I’ll be a flat,’ he finished. ‘Thank you.’
He sat down watching his spoken words appear as text on the flout boards. No one laughed and he read his own. Not funny, not really.
‘Jokes don’t work yet,’ the lady said. Her assistant made the note-taking gesture. ‘It was not funny in the original either.’
‘So, maybe that proves the translation worked?’ he asked her.
She shook her head. ‘Flout boards have a long way to go for the verbally inclined,’ she said. ‘Fortunately for us that’s a minority. This product is ready for launch.’
Everyone read their flout boards to make sure they understood what she had said. They stood up and clapped politely. A secretary cheered.