Languages are not Curtis’s strong suit. But usually, by using a combination of gestures, hand signals, other words and by rephrasing he can make himself understood. Over the phone, names, especially his name, seem to be extremely difficult to get across. In Indonesian, the letter “C” is pronounced “Ch” and the hard “C” sound is indicated by using the letter “K.” If it were me, I would probably settle for having my name spelled “Kurtes” and pronounced correctly. But Curtis, being Curtis--the same Curtis who once told me “no, no one does call him or has called him ‘Curt,’ except for this father, that is, and his father is dead"--is very particular about his name. So, in his ongoing battle to be understood, and correctly understood, Curtis has copied down the International Letter Code—two versions—and uses them when spelling out names. The other afternoon, thinking himself very clever, Curtis pulled out his International Letter Code to make a dinner reservation. “The name is Curtis. Curtis, as in Charlie-Uncle-Roger… and Bennett, spelled Bravo-Echo…”
When we arrived at the restaurant later, the maître de asked if we had a reservation. “Yes,” Curtis replied. Before he could begin to give his name, the maître de smiled:
“Oh, yes. Mr. Charlie, right this way…”
The International Letter Code worked so well, Curtis plans to use it when making all future reservations. From now on he’s going as Charlie Bravo.