Just don’t ask . . . and I won’t have to lie to you.
After I graduated from college, I had almost a year to cool my heels before going to Air Force flight school. So, I ended up in a job as a desk clerk in a hotel near Munich. I’d had six years of German in school, could read and write German pretty well, but there were two major problems:
1. I didn’t really know squat about German history in general or Munich history in particular.
2. I realized that even though I knew the language, everything out of my mouth sounded to the Germans like what I hear from the guy in my yard with the leafblower who I can hardly understand.
This was a problem because as part of my job, I was supposed to lead city tours for guests who requested a guide. My boss “Frau Doris” gave me a cheap info book and shoved me out the door with camera laden guests. I came back six hours later and told her I couldn’t lead any more tours because I really didn’t know jack about half the stuff we were seeing–and that the guests were asking about.
“No problem,” she said, glugging down her daily liter of vodka–really, she never would have hired me had she been sober. “You just make something up.”
“Yes, just make something up. They won’t know.” She fired up another cigarette. “And by the time they figure it out, they’ll be 6,000 miles away. So what do we care?”
I’ve stored that away in my Important Realization File. And many tourists now show their pals pictures of the distinctive architecture in Munich:
Those twin minarets are a result, they tell their friends smugly, of the Turkish invasion of 1200 b.c.. Well, at least that’s the first thing that came to my mind when they asked. But sooner or later–and 6,000 miles away–some knowledgeable person gutting it out over their boring vacation pictures would finally say, “What?! There was never a Turkish invasion of Germany.” What did I care? It shut them up at the time.
I bring this up to illustrate a point: most of the time, if I don’t know, it’s probably because I really don’t care. So, it’s better if you don’t ask me in the first place. Yes, this extends to in flight.
I don’t want to spoil anyone’s childhood or anything, but here’s the truth: my P.A. in flight–you know, the “this is your captain speaking” cliche they use on TV but is kind of useless since I actually have a name–is canned because it’s easier for me to do over and over ad nauseum. So, I make up a few cities we’ll be flying over, add our flight time for an ETA, and the weather is always “partly cloudy” and whatever temperature I guess it should be. Then when we land, if the weather’s garbage, you will have to accept that this is the part that’s cloudy in my “partly cloudy” report.
Don’t even start with the “what are we over” crap either. Here, you tell me:
Okay, what street are you on? Can’t tell? Either can I–and this is what I’m looking at to navigate your jet five miles above your city or state or whatever. No wait–there it is!
Right? Are we good now? And yes, it’s partly cloudy–this is the part that isn’t cloudy. Plus whatever temperature I make up because it’s kind of a pain to convert degrees Centigrade to Fahrenheit.
The actual weather at our destination? Here you go:
Isn’t “partly cloudy” a lot easier to deal with? We’re going anyway and I’ll handle this when we get there.
Now, I could go on all day about Munich fables, plus don’t even get me started on the translations! Once, after drinking with a guest, he–okay we–decided that it would be funny if I wrote his wife the note she needed for a hairdresser in town and in German, made it say “bitte mein kopf rasieren.” Which means “please shave my head.” Seemed pretty funny till she returned with a crewcut. Thank God it was a weekend so Frau Doris was drinking at home and couldn’t fire me.
Maybe you want to stash all this in your “Important Realization File” and reflect on it briefly before you reach for the call button to ask for information.
Any other questions? If I don’t know the answer, I’ll sure find out for you. Or more likely, just make something up. Still want to ask about our arrival time? Didn’t think so. Now you’re catching on.
Sent in by an alert traveler, this begs the question, “Anyone feel a draft in here?” plus, of course, “what were you thinking?”
Today was a good day for recording and mixing. Do you want comatose, or Spinal Tap? Both, you say? Here’s the former
Tempest (Think ocean, storm, rocks, waves . . .)
And here’s the latter
Monstrous (Fire up that bong)