Monday, June 25, 2007

"Sie haben shöne Augen."

Friday, June 22

Oh. My. Goodness. Some random guy on the train tried to pick me up!

Friday morning I woke up and got ready for the day. Jon gets breakfast at the hotel, but it would cost me 16 Euros to eat there so I decided to grab something later. I did dress nicely and put on a little makeup—light blush and lipstick--because I wanted to make a good impression when I went with him to work.

The Campeon site is one train stop away from the hotel. He showed me around the campus, then went inside his building. I tracked and hunted down breakfast and an Internet café, respectively. (2,5 euros for an hour, much better). I checked the comics, composed email, wrote a special message to my boys, and updated my blog.

It was cold and rainy out, so I went shopping and bought myself a gray sweatshirt. It looked warm and comfy and brought out the color of my eyes.

Apparently this was a mistake, because the next time I boarded the train, I started getting unusual male attention.

Here is the story, in a different format than usual. It was also a nightmare to format in a simple text editor, and I will clean it up later, after I get back to the US.

When I first got on, I noticed it was a crowded train with few available seats, so I decided to stand. Just then, a man made room for me. “That was nice,” I thought, and sat down.

“Danke,” I said to him.

“Bitte,” he replied.

A moment later I noticed an Asian man sitting across from me kept staring at me. I’d glance at him in surprise and catch him staring, and he’d look guilty away, but a minute later I’d catch him staring again.

“Wow, that’s odd,” I thought.

The Asian guy got off at the next stop. As soon as he left, the man next to me, the one who had made room, said, “Sie haben schöne Augen.” (You have pretty eyes.)

I was very surprised, but flattered. “…Dankeschon!” I said. (Thank you very much!) But I quickly added, “So sagt auch meinen Mann!” (My husband says the same thing!)

That will solve it,” I thought. “Now he knows I’m married and won’t flirt any more.” I was also proud of myself for managing such a surprising conversation auf Deutsch. I can’t say which pleased me more.

I was just starting to replay his comment in my head. “
Was he explaining that was why the Asian guy was staring at me?” I thought, “Or is he using one of the most cliché pick-up lines in history?” Of course, I flattered myself he was sincere, but still.

But then this guy started talking to me again. “Es is sehr kalt,” he commented. (It is very cold.)

Well, the weather is a safe enough topic for strangers. “Ja, stimmt,” I said. “Ich habe das [I pointed at my sweatshirt] jetzt gekauft weil es so kalt ist.” (“That’s true. I now bought this (sweatshirt) because it’s so cold.”) “
Aaargh!” I thought, “Not ‘jetzt’! That means ‘now’. ‘Recently’ or ‘just’…how do I say those? Aaargh!” In retrospect, I could have said “heute,” or “today." But, you know, real-time conversations get messy. That’s part of the agony and ecstasy, like doing a live piano performance rather than recording it.

Speaking of the ecstasy of real-time performance, I realized I was having an actual conversation with a native German, and so far, he hadn’t asked if I was foreign! Spurred by my success, I thought, “
I need input! More data! Surely it wouldn’t hurt to ask him something safe so I can keep practicing my conversational skills?

I asked, “Wo gehen Sie?” (Where are you going?)

That, too, appears to have been a mistake, because he gave me a long list of errands (which I did not follow very well). He noticed I was lost and asked something. I can’t reconstruct the German, but the gist was, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“Nein,” I admitted, “Ich bin Amerikanerin.” (No, I’m an American.)

He asked where I was going. I said I was going to Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to shop and wander around. I said “fussgangen,” and then immediately started thinking, “
Wait, I don’t think that’s a real verb. ‘Fussganger” means pedestrian. Should that have been ‘Ich werde zu fuss gehen?’ Probably should have just said ‘Ich werde wandern.’”

Now, it is remotely possible that my mention of going by foot spurred his chivalric instincts which is why he said what he did next. It is also just barely possible that he thought I was hinting for a ride. But I doubt it. In any case, he returned to his list of errands and added, “Kommen Sie mit?”

I can’t possibly have understood that correctly,” I thought. “It sounded like he was inviting me to go with him! But I didn’t hear ‘mir’ (me) in there.” (Likely this involved some grammatical slang, the equivalent of "Wanna come?" But it sounded, to my insufficiently acclimatized ear, like "Come you with?" instead of "Would you care to come along?" or "Will you come with me?")

I blinked. “Enschuldigung?” I asked. (Excuse me?)

He said something like “Mitkommen blah blah weisst du?” (The verb ‘to come with’…you know?)

I was astounded. I had heard him correctly!

“Ja, ich verstehe,” I said. (Yes, I understand.) Technically, that wasn’t true, but I certainly was getting the general idea! A few seconds later my brain processed that he had switched to the familiar. “
Wait a minute!” said my overtaxed brain, struggling desperately to run several linguistic applications in real-time while also trying to analyze data backing up in the input buffer, “Who does he think he is, using the familiar on a complete stranger? He doesn’t even know my name! Does he think I won’t notice, or does he not care?

Apparently my scheduler malfunctioned, because a lower-priority process got undue processing time. A tiny part of my brain noted dryly, “
You know, in French, there are actual verbs for ‘use the familiar’ and ‘use the formal.’ If we were speaking French, I could look at him haughtily and say, 'Vousvoyez-moi!' (Use the formal with me.)” Sadly, this tangent so overloaded my poor CPU that I couldn’t think of a way to express that idea gracefully in German.

Meanwhile, he was repeating invitation, “Kommst du mit mir?”

I managed a reply! “Danke, aber nein,” I said firmly. (Thanks, but no.)

I think it was then that he thought of inquiring about my husband. “Dein Mann, ist er aus Deutschland?” (Is your husband from Germany?)

“Nein, er is auch Amerikaner,” I said. (No, he’s also American.)

Now, perhaps you are shocked that I was still speaking to this guy after he hit on a married woman. At the time, I decided, “
You know, I’m getting off in two more stops. I’ve made it clear I’m married…and, drat it, I want to practice some realistic German!

It is true. I used the guy with terrible pick-up lines for his conversational skills.

He asked why we were in Munich. I explained that Jon was here on business. “Mein Mann arbeitet,” I said, “…und ich arbeite nicht!”) (My husband is working…and I’m not!)

He started babbling about something else. I noted, in a detached sort of way, that I was now catching about one word in five. I smiled and nodded, but did not really try to follow very closely. Finally he asked, “Verstehen Sie mich?” (Do you understand me?)

“Ich verstehe ein bisschen,” I said. (I understand a little.) I explained I’d studied German only two years in high school, but I’d had a very good teacher.

Then we stopped at Hauptbahnhof and I exited. “Also, Tschus!” I said. (Bye!)

“Tschus!” he answered.

He made no effort to stalk me. It occurred to me belatedly that at the end of the conversation, he had switched back to the formal. “I guess I managed to convey the idea that I am unavailable,” I thought, with satisfaction.

Then the reality sank in. I had just managed a prolonged conversation in German, and I had handled myself pretty well!

Then the other reality sank in. “Two guys on the S-bahn thought I was pretty! One of them tried to pick me up! That never happens to me! Even when I was twenty, it never happened to me? WOW!” (It's amazing how much younger and prettier I felt without two children in tow!)

I wanted to start singing, “I feel pretty…” in the middle of the station shopping plaza, but I controlled myself.

Then I started imagining how I would tell this story in sign language, and my brain exploded. Switching between two languages is hard. Toggling among three causes a headache. Desperately juggling four =>> blue screen of death.


Is it wrong to feel giddy and flattered because someone other than Jon flirted with me? I don’t think my behavior was wrong—I didn’t encourage his flirting—but I couldn’t help feeling a bit smug afterward. I also explained the entire thing promptly to Jon, looked him in the eye, and told him my conscience was clear. Jon was a bit jealous, but not upset with me, and I noticed he was very attentive all evening! Comments?


My German was also good enough that I understood when the S-bahn driver said that everyone needed to disembark at the next stop. I didn’t understand what the problem was, but I got off and found an alternate route. It turns out there’s construction going on which means some re-arranging of train tables. It is slightly inconvenient, but not horribly so.

I met Jon at work and we wandered around Marienplatz and went out to dinner. It was a nice Friday night date. My feet were aching by the time we got back to the hotel, but my conscience was clear--mostly!--and I slept the sleep of the just.

Editorial note: I am working through the backlog slowly. Hopefully tomorrow I can get caught up through Saturday (Deutsches Museum) and Sunday (Church).


Carrie said...

wow, I loved the German flirting story!! Isn't it nice when guys think that? though, you are married, so I suppose it's slightly different...but I just told that story to some of my friends because it made me giggle. In any case, you could play the song "She don't know she's beautiful" or ...even better "She Never lets it go to her heart" by Tim McGraw, where he explains that he's never jealous when other men flirt with his wife because ... "When they start talking, she starts walking, right back to my arms." ... So yes, go kiss Jon and reassure him that you love him very, very much, and everything should be fine. :-)

Katie Lou said...

Your language skills never cease to amaze me! I would probably have just smiled and nodded and I'm sure that would have given the WRONG impression. Thanks for sharing!

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Sheryl said...

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