Tchuss!

2004-07-09

I'm sure I mentioned it before, but I don't speak German. I decided to start German class in my senior year of high school. Freshman German involved a lot of coloring with crayons ("färben Sie jetzt den Himmel blau") and was generally rather relaxing. Truly one of the only things that I took away from that class was a phone conversation that we were made to memorize. And truly, unless I change my name to Heike and call Sven, that's never really going to come into play. So I spent my two weeks speaking a lot of English and doing a lot of pantomiming.

For some odd reason, German children loved to walk up to me and launch into rather complicated conversation attempts in German. I don't know why I was such a magnate for this. In Dresden, a little boy was waiting for the elevator with me and let me have a 15 minute oration on who knows what. At each pause in his speech, I would smile and nod, all the while hoping that he wouldn't ask me a question.

Adults didn't really try to talk to me except after I was forced by the weather to buy a jacket. It was in the low 60's, and raining so I broke down and bought a jean jacket. It's not really something one would buy in America, but it was cheap and it's not terribly easy to buy warm outer wear in July. I wish I could say what was "off" about the jacket but I never really figured it out. Anyway, as soon as I put it on, one person after another asked me for directions. It must be a terribly "Dresdener" looking jacket.

Even though I had called the airlines several days prior to my return flight to ensure that I had a window seat, I was seated in seat C within the dreaded 2-4-2 place configuration. Next to me was an 8 year old German girl. This girl was apparently convinced that both myself and the flight crew couldn't possibly not know German. She wanted nothing to do with the stewardess that did speak German, but she constantly attempted conversations with myself and an American steward who must have explained to her 1000 times that he doesn't speak German.

I had been so looking forward to seeing movies in English but all 12 selections really, really sucked (except for the bio of Rodney Bingenheimer, that was pretty good "Mayor of Sunset Strip", I think). The German girl spent about three hours having pretend phone conversation with her remote control. And then suddenly the phone was for me. So I took the remote control she was handing me and said "Hallo" (which I had picked up is how German's answer phones).

After that I froze. I couldn't think of a single phrase in German that I could say. I paused for a bit, trying to think of something (I think it would have gone against the spirit of the game for me to have a pretend phone conversation in English. I mean, at that point you're no longer playing, your just some crazy lady pretending that the remote is a phone).

And then it hit me: "Tag Heike, heir ist...Christine" (the original line is Sven, but I didn't think she'd buy it that my name is Sven).

"Ich komme bald ruber" (ok, I'm sure there are tons of spelling errors there, but hey, I memorized this 12 years ago).

"Uh - huh" "ja, ok?" (I'm trying to stretch it out a bit at this point)

and then, big finale "Das ist shade. Ich hoffe Sie sint bald vieder gazund"

"OK, tschuss!" (I LOVE yelling "tchuss!" at the end of phone calls).

I handed the phone back to German girl. She hung it up. It then occurred to me that she might then think I spoke German (because I had convinced myself that my performance was that good) but she went back to playing with her stuffed unicorn. She never tried to speak to me again, except she did point out that her feet are the same size as mine.

I feel like that was a rather fitting end to my German experience. And I am ever grateful to Frau Putzig for making me memorize that conversation.


BTW, I have "Dragostea Din Tei" by O-Zone going through my head. It is the catchiest pop song ever written, and that's saying a lot.

Someone buy me the single, ok?

Oh, and what is wrong with my husband?

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