Friday, February 20, 2009

Trip down memory wane

When I was an undergrad, I was at Longs Drugs in the shopping center at the corner of Nobel and Via La Jolla. I don't remember why, but do somehow feel confident that I wasn't buying anything, just accompanying Andy, and also that we were not buying beer. There was only one checkout counter open and a long line. We were at the end of it, and in front of us was a decrepit old bag with posture that made a candy cane look straight. Someone opened the adjacent checkout counter and announced that he would take the next person in line. The shriveled caterpillar didn't budge. Andy asked her, quite politely, "Excuse me, ma'am, are you in line?"

She replied, in a voice that wavered and cracked under its own sarcasm, "Am I standing here?" Andy said nothing, and moved to the front of the new line. He bought his stuff and we looked back and there was the old saddlebag, still in line, with a bit of a smug glare like she just told off that young whippersnapper. 2 other people in line gave us a conspiratorial grin.

Fast forward to this morning. I was walking to work along a dirt road through a forest. It was pitch black. The dirt road does have some street lights, but they are poorly positioned and pine trees are opaque. I heard some rustling to my left and froze. This was startling at first, but with my handy little pocket LED light, I soon discovered it was a deer. I was in no hurry at all and so I decided to sit at a local tree and watch. The deer did not seem to care, and after a minute I didn't either, so I quietly stood up and continued walking.

After another few hundred meters, I encountered a nice old lady heading the opposite direction. Her face was more wrinkled than her cortex, and probably had more live neurons. She was with a massive German Shepherd who probably outweighed her by 20 kilos and was on a leash that she had wound tightly round her hand, several times. Now, we both know that ostensibly domesticated dogs and deer don't mix, especially when the dog is far stronger than the leash holder. The following conversation ensured (in German):

Good morning.
(no reply)

Good morning!! (quite loudly)
(no reply)

Excuse me!!
(she turned)

Excuse me.

I can hear you. (looks at me quite sourly, as if greatly put out.)

Excuse me, ma'am, you should know that there is a deer ahead on to your right, about 300 meters.

(cocks her head)

There is a deer ahead, on the right. I tell you, for it is likely, your dog will run, and try to eat it. (I do not know "chase" in German, though surely Gerv does.)

He is just a puppy.
(in German, all dogs are male.)

Ma'am, that is a large dog, and he will try to eat the deer.

I said, he is a puppy. You do not listen.
(unlike the beginning of the conversation, she switched to the informal "you," which is normally reserved for friends, children, or morons. I doubt I was in category one or two. I remained formal.)

Ma'am, I think, that your dog could eat me. He is a very big dog.

I know that.

Ma'am, I only tell you, because there may be a problem. An emergency. When your dog sees the deer, he will try to eat it. Maybe you should remain here.

(no response)

Ma'am, I recommend, you remain, or return. The walk up the hill is not safe.

You are stupid.

(pause) Sorry ma'am! Have a good morning.

(mutters something incomprehensible, but clearly not nice. There are rare occasions when I am delighted to speak poor German, and this was one of them.)

So this served as a reminder that not all old ladies are nice. Positive prejudice is no more intelligent nor accurate than mainstream prejudice. Ah well. The two bitches kept walking up the hill, and I continued down it. Hm, my streetcar plans are now in disarray too, and they don't run that often in the mornings. I probably won't make the 1 like I planned, but I think if I turn left on Hilmteichstrasse, I can get the 7, or just walk to Jakominiplatz, it looks like a clear morning. I can just follow the streetcar lines, or I have my map, right? Yes! Plan: go to the streetlight up there, check the map for shortcuts, and-

(collision sounds)
Oh, oh! Rauwven! Halt, Rauwven!
WOOF WOOF! (Branches break. Or maybe it was a hip.)
Oh! (also something in German I couldn't understand, but I could certainly detect a dramatic change in tone from her last words to me.)
(Clear sounds of thumping hooves, excited barking, and more broken branches, all waning like my memory of ages past.)

And, let's see, the 1 and the 7 are staggered, so if the streetcar that just went by is the 1, my best bet is the 7 in front of the hospital. OK, so I basically walk around the hospital along the western side, then go left, and that's the closest stop. Or maybe the other one, on what is it, Lenaugasse?

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