Sensory century

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I am at UC Davis to participate in a Global Tea Initiative.  The first event yesterday morning was to go to a tea tasting presided over by Master Wing-Chi Ip.  A taxi came to our hotel to drive us over to a building bearing the name of Robert Mondavi (1913-2008), a giant in the California wine industry.  It turns out that there are two buildings on campus bearing his name, a mammoth Center for the Performing Arts and an Institute for Wine and Food Science.

The taxi driver spoke with a heavy Russian accent.  The passengers were a Sri Lankan anthropologist, a Pakistani-American ethnobotanist, a Taiwanese chemist, and myself.

The taxi driver dropped us off at the Robert Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, since he said his instructions were to take us to the "Century Theater" there.  We went inside and asked the receptionist where the "Century Theater" was, but she had no idea where it might be in that huge building.  The receptionist checked in her computer and said that it seemed there was no "Century Theater" in the Center for the Performing Arts.  She helpfully suggested that it was more likely in the Mondavi Center for the Institute for Wine and Food Science, which was about a five minute walk away.

We walked to the Institute for Wine and Food Science and, after going inside, asked where the "Century Theater" was.  Although there appeared to be a lot of tea people milling around, nobody knew of a "Century Theater" in the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.  Finally, one of our hosts who was already there spotted me and gave us a warm welcome.  I asked her, "Where is the 'Century Theater'?"  "Century Theater?  Century Theater?", she repeated, rather dumbfounded.  "There isn't any 'Century Theater' in this building.  The tea tasting is taking place in the 'Sensory Theater', which is right down the hallway.  Follow me!"


  1. Nahema Patwari said,

    January 20, 2017 @ 9:34 pm

    The Russian is struggling to put food on his family's table. Sure he can't speak queen's English, but he's trying.

  2. julie lee said,

    January 20, 2017 @ 11:53 pm

    I can well understand the Russian driver's mis-hearing. There are many Century Theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area (only 1 1/2 hours from UC Davis), but Sensory Theatre is a highly unusual name. This is the first time I've heard of a theatre with this name.

  3. chamekke said,

    January 21, 2017 @ 2:07 am

    .Yes, this sounds like an easy mistake to make.

    In my first year of studying Japanese tea ceremony, my sensei invited me to come to an additional lesson on [what sounded to my novice ears as] "Sasaday". I assumed I was being asked to attend on Saturday, and assured her I'd be there. Cute a baffled phone call from her on Thursday morning when I failed to show up as promised. The memory still makes me blush

  4. John Swindle said,

    January 21, 2017 @ 6:23 pm

    Some years ago I heard part of a public radio piece on seminarians. I was struck by how many of them were describing experiences they'd had in their eighties or even their nineties. Whoa! These were pretty old seminarians! Then I realized they were all over a hundred years old, and they weren't seminarians.

  5. Arthur said,

    January 21, 2017 @ 10:49 pm

    I never thought of Professor Mair as a tea partier.

  6. Roger Lustig said,

    January 24, 2017 @ 12:30 am

    @Arthur: do you call the head of the Sensory Theatre "Sensei"?

  7. Andreas Johansson said,

    January 24, 2017 @ 4:53 am

    Does Californian English insert a [t] into /ns/?

  8. Mike M said,

    January 24, 2017 @ 6:43 pm

    @Andreas. As a Californian, I'll have to say no. Based on the reading, methinks the taxi driver, a non-native speaker, misheard Sensory for Century (or inserted [t] when pronouncing).

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