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Clean Laffs - Not exactly a meeting of the U.N.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Good morning crew,
When we finally got to our first hotel in Schriesheim, maybe an hour outside of Frankfurt, I was filled with anticipation and eager to try out some of the German I had been cramming my head with for months.
Would I make a fool of myself? Would they laugh at me? In my fevered imagination I pictured the first person I conversed with exclaiming, "Wow! You sound just like a native German! I didn't think any stupid Americans could speak anything but English." And then embracing me like a long-lost cousin and buying me a glass of beer.
The first thing I noticed when we got off the bus was that the hotel had a little restaurant/bar attached with a nice little patio furnished with tables and umbrellas. Since I had brought with me some little cigars I thought the perfect way to relax after a nine hour flight and a 75 minute bus ride would be to have a glass of beer and a cigarillo while taking in the crisp, late afternoon German air.
Taking my cue from the strict rules in the U.S. about where a person can smoke, I went inside the restaurant to ask where the designated smoking areas are. Standing behind the bar I found a stout, middle aged man in an apron stacking glasses.
This was it; my first interaction with a native. I stood there for a moment composing my opening conversational salvo in my head. When I was sure I had the words right I walked up to him and said, "Entschuldigen. Darf ich im der Biergarten rauchen?"
Basically, 'Excuse me, can I smoke in the beergarden?'
Without looking up from his work he answered, "Ja, naturlich," (yes, of course) in the exact same disinterested tone that I have heard from a thousand other bartenders before.
Well, at least he didn't laugh at me. So I said, "Sehr gut. Ich mochte ein Bier, bitte." (Very good. I'd like a beer, please.)
With the mechanical motions of long practice he selected a glass and without even asking me what kind of beer I would like poured me a draft. Placing it on the bar he finally made eye contact and with a small smile said, "Vier Euro funfzig." (Four-fifty)
Walking out of the bar to the beer garden the whole exchange seemed a little anticlimactic to me, but after thinking about it for a minute it dawned on me that the bartender had taken our entire conversation, limited as it was, at face value. He had understood me perfectly, and while it wasn't exactly a meeting of the U.N., it was a completely successful interaction.
I was sitting there feeling pretty good about myself when the wife finally caught up with me outside carrying a beer of her own.
"Where did you get that beer?" I asked her.
"The same place you got yours, from the bar inside," she said.
"Did you have any trouble ordering it?"
"Nope. The guy speaks perfect English. He even told me where to find you."
"Why would he tell you where to find me?" I asked.
"Well, I guess he figured since we're both obviously Americans we're probably together."
Laugh it up,
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