Monthly Archives: April 2004

You can’t make this shit up

Bitburg, Germany
A foreigner walks into a bar.  There are two patrons, a bartender and a 3-legged dog.  No one speaks a word of English.  The foreigner needs to make a phone call, but doesn’t know if they need to dial anything to make an outside call.  Foreigner opts to hand the number to the bartender, point to the phone and say, “Bitte” (please).  Bartender agrees to make call for the foreigner.
So I call my friend Megan to let her know that I’ve made it to the station and she can come pick me up from the Air Force Base any time she feels like it.  She let’s me know that she’ll be there in 20 minutes.  I figure that gives me enough time to have a beer and for the first time in hours, absorb the fact that I’m in Germany.  I go up to the bar and point to the beer taps and just say “Bier Bitte.”  The bartender nods her head, grabs a small pilsner glass and begins to pour my beer.  In typical German fashion, the bartender poured a little bit, let the head settle, and then would start the cycle over.  In typical American fashion, I just wanted to say, “Pour the head out as you pour, I don’t care,” but then I realized I’d be nothing more than the stupid American yelling in a language the bartender didn’t understand, and I still wouldn’t have my beer.  So I let her continue her painfully slow pour.  Every time she’d pour a little bit of the beer, she’d walk in back and do something.  A few minutes later she’d come back, pour some more, and head to the back.  It took almost 20 minutes for her to pour a few ounces of beer for me.  The two old men at the bar had some chuckles at my expense.  At least I think they did, they would look at me, say something to each other and then laugh.  Hell, I wanted to laugh at how ridiculous this wait was turning into.  What more should I expect when I walk into a bar that has the makings of a bad joke.  I kept looking behind me, expecting a horse to walk in and the bartender to ask in German, “Why the long face?”
I finally get my beer, head outside to sit at a table.  Just as I’m about to bring the glass to my lips, my friend pulls up and yells for me to bring my bags over.  I slam my beer in 2 gulps.  I feel a bit guilty, all the time and effort it took to pour it, took me 2 seconds to drink.  I felt like I should have appreciated it a bit more, but didn’t have the stamina to care.  Absorbing Germany would have to come later.
Moral of the story: If you’re going to act like a tourist, you’ll be treated like a tourist.  Make sure to find the humour in it.  I know I did.

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Seriously, David Hasselhoff???

From Washington, DC to Bitburg, Germany

I can count on one thumb the number of times I’ve been able to sleep on a plane. Sometimes it’s the right thumb, sometimes it’s the left, but either way I look at it, it’s only one of them. Since my flight had me leaving Detroit at night and landing in Frankfurt in the morning, I came up with the grand idea that I would go to bed at 6 pm the night before my flight, and wake up at 2 am the day of. I figured by the time I got to Detroit and on the plane, I would be so tired I would have no choice but to fall asleep.

Yeah, in theory my plan should have worked. Things I didn’t count on were an occasional screaming kid behind me (no love lost seriously) and a fat German who decided that I made a good head rest next to me (no love whatsoever). The worst part, he drooled. Whenever I was able to get him off of me, he would move his head to the person on the other side of him, who would just push him back on me. I don’t know if he took something to knock him out or if he was just used to his wife shoving him away from her in bed, but he was lights out for 5 hours of the flight.

By the time I landed in Frankfurt, I’d been up for almost 24 hours. I have no recollection of getting off the plane, going through customs or even getting my luggage. The next thing I remember is following the clearly marked signs to the train station. I went strait to information and asked if they could print me off a detailed itinerary for the train ride from there to Bitburg. I was so tired that I knew I would lack the stamina to think on my own. Information gave me my train times, transfers and platform numbers. I was in love.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no trouble sleeping on a train. Normally I would welcome the chance to sleep for 4 hours after being up for so long, but I knew if I fell asleep, I would miss getting off for my transfers. The second I got on, I started doing the whole nodding off and startling myself awake. I’d only closed my eyes for a couple seconds, but it felt like an hour. I had an annoying couple from Colorado on the same car as me who were so excited to talk to another American, they wouldn’t shut up. I didn’t want to talk to them, but at least they kept me awake.

On the last leg of my train trip, I sat across from a very good looking German guy. I kept thinking I should say something to him, but I was afraid of what would come out of my mouth if I spoke. I had been awake for almost 30 hours and I was pretty sure I was hinging on delirium. Lack of sleep or not, I’ve never been able to keep my mouth shut and just before my train rolled into Bitburg, I looked at the guy and just said, “Serioulsy, David Hasslehoff?” That garnered a couple laughs as I grabbed my bag to get off the train.

I had finally made it to Bitburg, now I just had to figure out how to call my friend and let her know I was there.

Moral of the story: If you can’t sleep on planes and you know you need to, get something to knock you out for a few hours. If you opt to take something, and you haven’t in the past, I would let a flight attendant know so they can wake you before the descent starts to give you plenty of time to wake up and become aware of your surroundings.

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Filed under Europe '04