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February 19, 2024

A Piker Goes To Germany

By John Trindle

Here I sit in a library in downtown Kaiserslautern, Germany, paying about $2.50 per hour for Internet access. This has been my first trip out of the country without a keeper, and so far things are going just about as well as can be expected.

Right now the folks outside the library are honking their car horns wildly. Why? Who knows. It certainly isn't helping my Irish House pub hangover (yes, it's "contract to the Army and see the world. Drink in an Irish pub in Germany.") Ah, it has stopped. Blissful silence.

I'm sitting here chatting with you not because my Internet addiction itch needed to be scratched. It did, of course, because going from 10 or more hours a day of high speed access down to plunking in text on the cellphone keypad is a real shocker. Sometimes I can eke out a couple sentences before collapsing from thumb exhaustion.

Of course, at work on the Army base I can get on-line, but that has even less privacy than the public library as it is standard procedure to have at least 3 folks standing around watching while a fourth person works.

No, I'm fighting this German layout keyboard because I'm waiting for a cafe to open. On the first day I arrived, I stalked the main shopping street of K-town (Kaiserslautern, Germany) looking for a cellphone store to enable my phone with a German chip. I carried my digital camera with me as a badge of my tourist-osity, as if my jet-lagged glaze and apparent illiteracy wasn't signal enough. I was pretty sure I wouldn't take any pictures but you never know.

In any case, the camera is gone. I've checked the two cellphone stores where I set down the phone, and the cafe is the third place to look. I'm not sure if I got through to the clerk at one of the phone stores, as he spoke even less English than I did German. I'll have to check back on another shift, I suppose. The cafe opens in about 20 minutes.

Good food at this place, and good beer. I played with the phone and ate my food, sitting outside in the sun and cool breeze. I was a man in control of his destiny, connected and empowered. Actually, the phone was reading 'Card Error' in German, but I thought it was the name of a service. Then I saw the dwarf.

Yes, a dwarf. One of the variety that carries an accordion down cobblestone streets. The short variety. I looked up and down the strasse, and checked the level in my glass, but saw only the one dwarf. He was real. I suppose the current terminology would be "differently-dimensioned", but since he was making a living at it (it certainly wasn't his musicianship), we'll assume he realized he was dwarvish.

He was soon joined by two taller compatriots, one with a trombone and one with a clarinet, each with a Zigeuner (Gypsy) cast to their features. They struck up what I must call a tune, since I don't think even in Germany folks are allowed to commit Noise With Malicious Intent without consequence.

After the melange of chordal cacaphony ended, the clarinetist circulated with an ashtray from the cafe (clean!) hastily converted to a begging bowl. I put him off until I could get my change (today I remember it is called RueckGeld, but I didn't remember that then), and scurried away as fast as possible. As fast as possible in a cafe in K-town meant that I had to suffer through another deluge of descants.

Still, it was fast enough that I probably left my camera on the table. I hope they have it, as I truly want to get out of town on my only free days, and see some Tourist schlock. Err... schloss.

Article © John Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-06-30
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