I was at school with Michael the other day, and we were waiting in the reception area. The school is small, consisting of two classrooms, two small offices for the teachers, the small bathrooms, and the area that all these rooms are centered around — namely, the reception area.
This is where we were to spend about three and a half hours in between his and my class, Michael working diligently at his laptop on a small, round table there, and I nestled in a low, plush couch next to the table.
I had brought a number of tea bags with, which represented the diversity of our supply at home, and I was just enjoying a delightful, newly-released seasonal blend, when a woman came in. She was a prospective student of the school, a foreigner like us, needing to learn the language.
She seemed to speak German somewhat well as she conversed with the receptionist and teacher at the desk. The staff talked among themselves and discussed her case, remarking at her good German level. She was anxious to be able to join her husband in a class which they could attend together.
Joining me at the couch, the woman sat, waiting expectantly. While she sat, I wrote, completing a short summary statement as a homework assignment. She sat. I wrote. She waited. I feverishly weighed the grammatically correct sentence structure options of formal, written German.
Probably it was my good mood that day that led me to an outgoing and charitable thought. Perhaps she would enjoy a tea while she waits. I deliberated momentarily, deciding whether it would be appropriate, then, concluding in the affirmative, I proceeded to pull out my stash of tea bags — a decent handful, at least eight or so — and I turned to the woman. “Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked, with my simple yet polite German vocabulary, as I smiled warmly and held up the handful of tea bags invitingly.
I was so pleased with this idea, and, I think, expecting or hoping for a warm exchange between fellow human beings, however limited. It was my desire to brighten her day.
It took the woman a moment to realize I was speaking to her, and I smilingly held the tea bags up. As she, expressionless, though perhaps confused, accepted the handful of small packets, I started to say, “There’s a variety of —
And my eyes traveled the journey of her hand as she said a short and flat, “Danke,” while her hand kept traveling down and into her large purse, where the tea bags stayed, and her hand came up empty.
Lovely thoughts of sharing human goodness with a warm beverage ground to an abrupt and squeaky halt in my instantly confounded brain, while my mouth stopped mid sentence. I closed my mouth, while the woman sat back up and straightened her posture, turning to look again where her gaze had been before my offer, straight ahead, expressionless, waiting. I could only blink a couple times while I recovered from my shock.
Not wanting to be the cause of any embarrassment, I said nothing more as my brain started back to life. Obviously there was a misunderstanding, but it would be so rude to say something. But the teas! And Michael’s tea that I had brought especially for him as a thoughtful act on a very long day. Never mind the teas I would have drunk myself or those I would have offered to the teacher later. Oh, no! Well, never mind, I can’t very well do anything about it now. I offered her a tea and now she’ll get to enjoy a lot of teas, though it wasn’t exactly what I was planning. Internally, I sighed in resignation and decided I’d just have to laugh about it.
After texting Michael what had just happened, because obviously I couldn’t tell him with the three of us sitting right next to each other, I hopefully turned and rummaged through the pocket where I had originally stored the tea bags. Eureka! One tea bag left, and it’s Michael’s flavor! But wait, there’s one more! Internal jubilee ensued.
I mentally shook my head as I replayed the comic interaction. How silly for us. But what must the woman be thinking!
Cappuccinos: The Gateway to Delinquency
Appearing too young to the rest of the world seems to be the story of my life. The issue has come up on all manner of occasions including my profession and the purchase of alcohol (activities unassociated with each other), which all make sense, though there was one time in Germany when I tried to buy two beers for my dear hubby without any I.D. on me. Who would’ve thought that I couldn’t even pass for a 15 y/o, which is the legal age for beer and wine consumption in Germany. I digress. Today, as it happens, I found myself in the middle of an exchange that left me perplexed and shaking my head.
On my way home from an errand this afternoon, I stopped by the local café and bakery to pick up two cappuccinos and two pretzels for the husband and I. Four-thirty in the afternoon is not too late for us to drink espresso and, in the land of mid-afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen, not even unusual. However, as I placed my order, I was caught unawares by a sudden question from the employee.
“Who are the cappuccinos for?”
Um, heh?? Caught off guard, I stumble over accusative and dative declensions as I manage what might have been a somewhat intelligible statement like, “Uh, for me and, uh, my husband?” What kind of question is that??
A moment of consideration by the employee. Then, “How old are you?”
Excuse me? Did I hear you right? What is going on here?? I am so confused. “Twenty-seven,” I answer quickly though rapidly attempting to interpret what in the world is going on.
This time, in response, I get a look that I interpret as disguised, mild suspicion along with an unarticulated, faint noise something like a “hmp.” She finished ringing up my order and made no further mention of the conversation in which there was only a one-way understanding anyways. I remained in the dark.
As I went to collect our drinks from her at the other counter, she jokingly made a comment to the effect of, “No alcohol, right?” To which I replied in the affirmative.
Her perspective became a bit clearer to me.
So today, to the lady at the bakery with an overactive imagination, I can only imagine that she saw a young girl, presumably at some point in her teens, intending to go out and have a Wednesday-afternoon fling with a boy, spiked coffee, and pretzels.
At least, that’s about as clearly as I was able to understand the situation. That is to say, about as clear as mud.