I had a big meeting yesterday in another city. “Big” doesn’t mean “prestigious” or “critical for the company’s success” here really. It just means that there were a lot of people attending, and all of them from different groups within the conglomerate. I was representing my group and as such, I decided to wear a tie…mostly because most of the other men attending these meetings typically do (and the women usually wear suits).
So I picked what is probably my “finest” dress shirt (kind of a greenish yellowish khaki color) and a dark green tie I’d bought on a whim in downtown Munich at a dirndl store some time ago, black pants and shiny new black dress shoes. Those items, together with my black leather jacket made a pretty snappy ensemble, if I may say so myself.
Due to some screw-up which caused us to sit still on the tracks for about 15 minutes, I missed my train connection in Nürnberg, so I ended up taking a slower train to my final destination. I sat across from a very chatty old lady, fluent in many dialects of German. Our conversation went like this:
“My husband was in the army for 20 years and then he became a locomotive engineer.”
“Oh yeah? That’s interesting.”
“It was always hard to predict when he’d be home so I could have dinner ready and waiting for him. One time he came home 6 hours late for Christmas Eve dinner due to some problem on the tracks! But I guess it’s pretty much the same on the police force.”
I tried to conceal my confusion by not asking what that had to do with the price of beans. Her accent was pretty thick, and I figured I’d missed something, or else she was about to tell me about her nephew the policeman or something. Or else she somehow managed to infer that I’d married a police officer’s daughter.
“So where are you headed?”
“There’s a large police training academy there, isn’t there?”
“I really wouldn’t know, I’m headed there on a business trip for the day.”
Neither of us could hear the conductor announcing the stops on our way to Erlangen. She noticed I was looking intently out the window, trying to make sure I wouldn’t miss my stop. I told her I wasn’t from around here, and then she said she noticed I was having trouble understanding her, and then she said “You’re probably not a police office either, are you?” I said “Nope, not at all,” and we both had a laugh and I finally understood what she’d been getting at earlier.
At the end of my day on the way home, I stopped at a bakery stand to get a sandwich and the guy behind the counter said something I didn’t quite understand, which I figure translated to “That’ll be €1,60, blahblahblah” (I didn’t understand the blahblahblah part). I looked up at him and asked for an explanation and he said
“you know, blahblahblah, like a friendly nickname for ‘police officer.'”
“Oh, OK. I’m not a police officer.”
“Really? But you must be a trainee or involved security or something in that outfit.”
I told him I was an American and really didn’t plan to impersonate anyone when picking my clothes that morning. I walked away while he was still trying to wrap his mind around that:
“Holy cow, I never would have known, Americans speaking German on TV sure don’t sound like that…”
|So here’s what I was wearing:||Here are some real German police officers, angry about something||and here’s Peter Falk modeling the version without the leather jacket, for good measure|
I wonder if I could make that work for me somehow.