214 MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW
to change the subject. "I see a saxophone and a baseball bat next to
you," he said, in his best English. "Do you like to play baseball?"
"Not in this cab, I don't," the driver said quietly. "It's no game
then, you understand?"
The young man sat back, feeling that he had been defeated by the
American idiom in his first native encounter with it. An engineer, he
was in Detroit to discuss his work in metal alloys that resist oxidation. The company that had invited him had suggested that he
might agree to become a consultant on an exclusive contract, for
what seemed to him an enormous, American-sized fee. But the
money meant little to him. It was America he was curious about,
attracted by, especially its colorful disorderliness.
Disorder, of which there was very little in Sweden, seemed sexy to
him: the disorder of a disheveled woman who has rushed down two
flights of stairs to offer a last long kiss. Anders was single, and before
he left the country he hoped to sleep with an American woman in an
American bed. It was his ambition. He wondered if the experience
would have any distinction. He had an idea that he might be able to
go home and tell one or two friends about it.
At the hotel, he was met by a representative of the automobile
company, a gray-haired man with thick glasses who, to Anders'
surprise, spoke rather good Swedish. Later that afternoon, and for
the next two days, he was taken down silent carpeted hallways and
shown into plush windowless rooms with recessed lighting. He
showed them his slides and metal samples, cited chemical formulas,
and made cost projections; he looked at the faces looking back at
him. They were interested, friendly, but oddly blank, like faces he
had seen in the military. He saw corridor after corridor. The building seemed more expressive than the people in it. The lighting was
both bright and diffuse, and a low frequency hum of power and
secrecy seemed to flow out from the ventilators. Everyone complimented him on his English. A tall woman in a tailored suit, flashing
him a secretive smile, asked him if he intended to stay in this country
for long. Anders smiled, said that his plans on that particular point
were open, and managed to work the name of his hotel into his
At the end of the third day, the division head once again shook
Anders' hand in the foyer of the hotel lobby and said they'd be
getting in touch with him very soon. Finally free, Anders stepped
outside the hotel and sniffed the air. All the rooms he had been in