Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Later Hozen!"

Anyone who knows me is aware of my borderline-obsession with Europe. I don't care how trite or American it is. When I'm in most parts of Europe, I feel my best, physically, emotionally, cash-strappingly. Notable exceptions to this rule include Florence, undoubtedly a beautiful city, but a city so small that it's abundance of Long Islanders left me walking around like Mel Gibson in the movie Ransom, cameras swinging around me as I'm jostled by a flurry of black Prada bags, finally collapsing in a busy Piazza, foaming at the mouth and yelling "Give me back my son!" over and over again for no reason. Florence made me cray. (Siena, on the other hand, was a dream.)

Me blending in with the locals.

The most controversial European country for me would, of course, have to be Germany. Not to get too Depression-Causing Sally on you, but a good chunk of my ancestors were killed in concentration camps, and all four of my Grandparents were Holocaust Survivors. (You can tell I'm exhausted when I throw down the Holocaust card, but it is important to this story. I mean if you want to buy me a sympathy meal, I'm not gonna say no.)

Our bleak history didn't stop my family from travelling to Austria and Germany when I was a toddler, making up for years of physical torture by stuffing our faces with various buttered pastries. And speaking of ugly Americans, even I was not immune to acting the brute: At 5, small, Asian-faced and delicate, I sat with my family at a fine dining establishment somewhere in Salzburg. At one point, I leaned into the table and whispered "Mommy, I farted." My mother then said "What, sweetheart, I can't hear you. Say it louder." I then screamed "Mommy, I farted!" Well, the people sitting next to our table got up and left, and I'm pretty sure my brother sprained a testicle from laughing so hard.

Where was I? Ah, yes, my chronic digestion problems. I mean, Germany.

When I studied abroad in Hungary, the only television stations not showing slave pornography 24/7 was Germany's version of NBC, "RTL". Every afternoon I'd come home, settle down, and watch "The Weakest Link" in German, or "Das Schwächste Glied" ("The Weakest Member"). German is similar to English, only the Nazis didn't speak English. Needless to say, a few words here and there sounded familiar. But clearly I did not understand a single thing being said, other than "Blochen!", which was their version of "Bank!". Here's an actual question asked:
Frage: Welchen französischen Namen tragen die knäuelartigen Quasten, diezur Grundausstattung jedes Cherleaders gehören?
Antwort: Tampons

Click here to read more hilariously inappropriate questions.

Even the insults spewed by the host were lost on me. "Sie dumm fuhrt! Sprechen Sie mit mir verruckter Mann nicht!!" This small setback did not stop me from watching it Monday through Friday, with a little porn sprinkled in for good measure.

And yet still, Germans make me uneasy.

Which is why I was slightly chagrined to learn that a German Trade company had moved into my office building. Oh, I wouldn't really care, if it wasn't for the fact that every morning in the elevator, I look and feel like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 3. (If you've seen the movie, you'll remember the elevator scene with him in the bank. If you haven't, I feel sorry for you.)

My typical work attire.

There I'll be, surrounded by beefy looking blonde men, super-stylish (but horribly toothed) women, and an occasional Asian person, which really throws me off. You can spot the Germans in the building from a mile away. They just don't... really... look like we do. (By we, I'm referring of course to my drop dead gorgeous readership.) Their clothes, their strut, their laser-beam vision. It's different.

And every morning, as the elevator climbs its way skyward, they all kibbitz about their lives... in German. Do you understand how jarring it is for me (groggy, plain-faced, usually hungover) to listen to a heated conversation in German before 9 am? Also, my crafty Jew instincts make me certain they know of my lineage. I push my toasted bagel further down into my bag. Did they see? Do they know? I feel around for the gold coins hidden in my shoes... still there. No matter - my uneasiness hasn't changed a short, black moustache hair in my morning altitudal commute.

Kinda like this, only death-stinkier.

Last week, 8:45 a.m., I pressed my floor and waited for the doors to close. These elevators do not fuck around. Try to hold the door for someone and the doors will lop your arms clean off. I have renamed them "Darth Vators" (and before this post, never had anyone to share that with.) From afar, I hear the unmistakable sound of European-made heels click-clacking on the marble. The steps grew faster. The doors began to close, as she ran up in an attempt to catch it. Now, I'm not a bad person, so I actually motioned to keep the doors open, then decided it was too risky. So there was that awkward face to face moment when you're in the elevator and the other person, a desperate Aryan running late for work, is left standing in the lobby. If you've never seen a fraulein with a frown-line, I highly recommend it.

As I replayed the events over in my head, I could only think one thing: "Did your grandparents hold the elevator door for my grandparents in Auschwitz? I didn't think so." The only solace I can take is hoping it's a Schindler elevator.

One might even say... Schindler's Lift? Schindler's lift? Two three... Hello? Is this thing on? No? Probably for the best.

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