Friday, January 20, 2006

Among the grim ...

January 20, 2006

Yesterday I had my first official nasty run-in with a German. At about 9:00AM His Holiness and I set out on what has become our daily routine - a morning walk and some shopping, followed by a bagel at our new favorite place. After closing the courtyard gate, HH settles in at the controls of his stroller and sets off at half speed down the sidewalk. He has become fairly adept at handling his vehicle but he isn’t quite tall enough to see over the top of the stroller so he stops now and then to peek out from the side to see what the traffic ahead is like, then he bounds forward another few feet before slowing again to reassess the situation. I’ve had more than a few people stop and stare as the apparently self-powered and empty stroller moves down the sidewalk.

One of our regular daily encounters is with the “post lady”, the German Postal service worker who delivers our mail. We look out for her each morning and when HH spots the distinctive yellow cart sitting in the middle of the sidewalk he begins announcing “post lady, post lady” as we approach. He then stops for a moment, they exchange pleasantries and then both of them push their respective carriages away in opposite directions. It’s a simple but gratifying encounter.

Yesterday he spotted the unattended yellow buggy, nosed his stroller up to it and waited. Then I spotted her coming out of the building next door, not our normal post lady but another woman in yellow and blue wearing a cruel frown. She stepped up to her cart and barked at me in rapid German, which I didn’t understand at all. I asked her, in my admittedly lousy German, to repeat what she had just said and she did, in English, something to the effect of “Can you get that out of my way?” Then she waved her hands with that “swat a fly” gesture in HH’s direction and when I wasn’t quite quick enough getting his stroller moving, she backed up her cart and scooted around us. I mumbled something very nasty in English just under my breath and slowly started HH down the sidewalk.

Now I suppose to be fair to the “post lady” she might have mistaken us for Postal thieves attempting a mid morning hack of her bag, or she might have thought we had no intention of moving the stroller out of her path, although she might have guessed when she approached us, me smiling and HH looking up at her hollering “post lady, post lady” that we had nothing more burdensome in mind than a brief sidewalk encounter. I don’t know, but it put me in a sour mood for at least – five minutes.

Now I’ve had folks in the grocery line look at HH and me with daggers in their eyes as we slowly unloaded things from his mini-shopping cart onto the check out belt, and more than once I’ve been nudged out of sorts by an over-eager Deutscher who couldn’t wait one more second to get through a door or out of an elevator, but the encounter with the “post lady” was just plain grumpy. I know we all think our children are the cutest, most adorable little things that ever saw the light of day and the fact is that other people see them as simply annoying little people, slow and often malodorous. That said, you have to be a pretty sour son of a gun not to at least say hello to a little bugger like HH when you encounter him looking up at you from the sidewalk, mumbling in your direction, all full of excitement and expectation.

Such is life among the grim.