Tuesday, February 22, 2005 8:32 PM
part 12

People are very efficient in Germany. The hotel staff asked me for my name on the first day, and remembered it the next day, after a glance at me.

At the breakfast table, the wait staff took away my plate instantly, if I left my fork on it, instead of beside it, even while I was sitting at the table. They also cleared the entire place whenever I left the table to get more food. Eventually (from watching other people), I noticed that they left my place alone if I left my napkin on the seat, instead of the table. Finally, they kept asking me if I wanted coffee or tea, until I saw that I had to turn the cup upside down. I learned many new things that day.

We visited the haus of Klaus. The Klaus haus? Klaus's haus? Something. Since we were in Hamburg, it was appropriate that there were Hamburgers present, but they were in the form of Klaus and his family. Ha, I laugh.

Germany has new microcars. They are so small that there's only a seat for one person. They're not quite Messerschmitts, but they're close. I remember stories about small cars in other places, such as London. Apparently, it was a common joke that a few strong men could pick up a car and put it inside a bus shelter, leaving it there for the poor owner to discover later.

Sometimes I take the path of least resistance, because sometimes life is easier that way. This happens most often in foreign countries, where people make assumptions about the language that I speak. In those cases, it can take longer to explain that I don't speak that language well than to speak in that language. So since I look European, some people assume that I am European. In Iceland, for example, it was often assumed that I was Icelandic, and so people spoke to me in Icelandic. This was fine since my time in Iceland allowed me to acquire a passable speaking ability. On the plane from Germany with the other Peter, it was assumed that I was German and he was not, so they spoke to me in German and to him in English. In that case, my school German was sufficient to get by. And sometimes there isn't a choice - when, on a flight from London, the customs declaration cards were all in French, my school French was sufficient to translate for the people in my cabin. The benefits of a classical education. :-)

Aeroplane food is often questionable already, but this text did nothing to reassure me: "We've taken care to make sure your meal is nutritious by [clearly ineffective measure]. Ingredients: [things that are bad for you, things that are very bad for you, things that are even worse for you, and yellow dye #5]". Why does nearly everything here seem to contain yellow dye #5? One might ask what happened to the other four? Try looking at the list of known carcinogenic food additives. Yes, let's call it "yellow die #5".

While queued to board the plane, the captain arrived with his own food, and said "If I'd known you all were coming, I'd have brought enough for everyone". Someone else said "There's still time". The captain laughed but kept walking. Bummer.

Yoshihiro and I visited the office in Virginia. We arrived late at night and without a dinner service on the plane, so we went looking for somewhere that was still open at that hour. We found a place whose name begins with "Waffle". The food was really affle. I ordered a cheese melt. At least, I think I did. Let us be generous and call it "'cheese' melt". I should have learned by now to not order something like that - when it arrived, it looked like I'd eaten it already. It came with what the Texans call "performance cheese". I don't know why they call it performance cheese, but one can certainly do tricks with it - it is so elastic that the meal - including the plate - can be picked up by the cheese itself.

On some days in the Virginia office, there was food in the kitchen. On one day, there were cookies. That's common enough. However, on the next day, there were potatoes. On the cookie day, they actually lasted until mid-morning. The poor potatoes were still there the next day.

Customised license plates seem to be very common in Virginia, but the one that I like best is owned by one of the guys in the office. His car has a license plate that says "ROFL -D" (Rolling On the Floor Laughing). He has drilled holes to make the eyes, so it looks like "ROFL:-D"

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