Archive for the 'humour' Category

24
Aug
13

Germanised Canadian in reverse culture shock

After 16 years living in Germany, you start to pick up a few German habits.  You don’t cross the intersection when the light is red – it sets a bad example for kids.  You greet colleagues around lunchtime not with hello, but with a cheery Mealtime!  You say hello to everyone waiting already when you walk into the doctor’s waiting room. And whenever you’re at the supermarket checkout counter, or picking up stuff at the cleaners, or dealing with a teller at the bank, you do NOT make idle chit-chat.  In and out with sometimes barely a nod to civility is how it’s done.

So after eight weeks travelling through this great land we call Canada we arrive in the unusually parched Wet Coast west-coast town of Squamish, and it’s time to go to the bank.  I’m out of cash – not an unusual state this time around considering the incredible jump in prices we’ve seen for everything from fish to fowl – so the first morning after we get in I head to the bank, stride up to the teller and ask for my daily withdrawal limit.

After keying in my PIN number she informs me that acquiring the cash will take a minute as the cash must be dispensed from a machine back around a corner, and it’s in need of some sort of re-boot or whatever, and I say that’s OK, and then she asks me, So, do you have any plans for the rest of the day?

I look at her and hesitate that telling half-second which gives me away as someone with as much social savvy as a deer staring at headlights.Canada Osoyoos wildlife deer on trail

As I said, I’m kind of out of practice at this sort of thing, and after 16 years of dealing with German checkout counter ladies and bank tellers, it hits me as if she’s asked me if I’ve tried out that crazy new brand of multicolour condoms with the spiral ticklers.

“Yes, well, uh, I’ve got lots of plans lined up,” and I see out of the corner of my eye that the teller to her right has turned her head to look at me as if to ask herself, gee, he looks like a regular white guy and he’s got no accent, so what’s his problem?

I instantly switch to Canuck mode and try to come back with the breezy-bantery reply you’re supposed to, but it falls flat.

“Well, uh, we’re doing laundry at the moment, actually, it’s the fourth load already.  We let it pile up as we’ve not had a chance to get any done since Canmore and since then we’ve been through the Kootenays and well, you know how it is.

“Well, at least you’ve got a nice sunny day to do it,” she replies, the cash finally having been delivered to her wicket and I can count on the ordeal being over that much sooner.

It’s a good thing the cash came when it did as I was going to add, “and later on I’m taking my Mom to a funeral, well it’s not an actual burial, more of a memorial service for my former principal who passed away, and I was very saddened to hear it and I want to be there.”

I hope October is here soon so we can all start talking about hockey again.

31
Oct
12

Halloween trick or treat gets an update

Has political correctness and touchy-feely taken over Halloween?  I thought they were kidding at first:

Well, if it’s serious, then this works both ways, and I think the message should get out to kids, too.

They cannot just barge onto my property and come up my steps and and stand before my door to scream Trick or Treat!

I find Trick or Treat to be a rude, nasty, mean and hurtful expression of juvenile greed, and I’ve suffered for it each and every year.  But this Halloween, that’s it.  Unless the kids ring the doorbell and calmly – but in a firm voice – ask for their candy, they won’t be getting any.  Here’s the handout, kiddies.  You still have a few hours to learn it.

“We, the gathered children of your neighbourhood dressed as we are in costumes which may or may not be the genuine product of our own handiwork, the work of our parents, or older siblings, or more than likely made in China and purchased at inflated prices at Wal-Mart, would like to politely request that you provide us, free or charge and without prejudice or right of redress, with a surgary confection of your choosing, either store-bought or homemade.  Failing that, we would be prepared to perform, again, without right of redress and free of artists’ royalties, a simple dance, sing a song, or tell a joke.  Should we opt for a joke, said joke will not contain elements harmful to any person or identifiable group.  The song, should we elect to sing it, is guaranteed not to be by Chris Brown, hero to some very sick people.   Thank you.”

I think that’s got a snappy enough ring to it, don’t you?  And it certainly levels the playing field.

30
Oct
12

Area man sorts through his sock drawer

Realising that he was 15 minutes late to work the other day because he couldn’t find a matching sock despite a collection of more than 60 pair, area man Bob Frapples, 52, is sorting through his sock drawer.   Frapples, a research scientist with the Institute of Applied Institutional Applications in Hamburg, Germany, says the task he faces is an immense one.

“Look, maybe I’m going fucking colour-blind in my old age, but I just can’t tell them apart anymore,” he laments.  “I mean, look at these things.  One’s blue, the other’s dark blue, that one’s black… you know, I’ve got better things to do that piss around on my day off sorting through socks.”

Frapples is not alone. In a recent poll, 65% of German men said they gave up finding a matching pair the other day and actually put on their Birkenstocks without socks, a major male fashion faux pas in a country that leads the developed world in awkward ways to dress.

Another survey found 35% of men would rather spend money on new socks rather than spend the time sorting through their old ones.

Specialists in the field of household psychology pin the problem on the pervasiveness of technology in modern life.

“People just figure they’ll be able to download some app for this sort of thing one day like they do for everything else, so they let their socks just sit there in the drawer, forever unsorted and ultimately unused,” said Bill Melater, Ph.D.  “Then they find they’re neglecting other household tasks, like getting around to doing the laundry or finally fixing that damned handle on the bathroom door that never seems to close properly.”

Economists have also picked up on the trend and say the growing under-utilisation of sockage in the market might be countered by external forces that will determine whether socks in the future get sorted.

“You might actually begin to entertain the idea,” said Gudeggs Getlaid of the London School of Economics, “that it is starting to look like the initial stages of a budding appearance of a growing societal trend wherein market demand for a strategic fit in the realm of sock drawer logistics is determined not by whether one ends up with two socks that actually match, but…oh…  Oh shit.   I’m terribly sorry. Where was I?”

iPhone developers have picked up on the trend.  One group is now working on an app that could revolutionise the world of sock drawers and free up untold millions of hours now wasted on sorting.

“Alls ya godda do is point the iPhone at your sock drawer, and the app’ll do the rest, OK?” said an excited app man at some Starbucks somewhere. “The app will analyse the colours and sizes, then suggest paired matches on your screen.”

Frapples says he couldn’t be arsed with the iPhone or experts for that matter as he spreads his drawer out over half his living room.  An organised man, his socks are now neatly ordered one beside the other according to length, not colour.

“That breaks it down a bit,” he said on a break for lunch three hours in.   “I figure with my system in place, I’ll be done before it’s time to head to work tomorrow morning.  I’ve already warned my wife that the living room’s a construction zone ’til the job’s over.”

Frapples has brought in extra lighting from neighbouring rooms to help out in the task.  “That helps to tell the difference between dark blue and dark-blue-but-not-that-dark-blue-could-be-black-for-all-I-know,” he said.

So far his method has resulted in about 20 matches.

18
Sep
12

The quick weight-loss biking diet

Starting weight: 77Kg, the stubborn remnant of a two-week trip three months ago back home to British Columbia, during which I made too many visits with mom to White Spot and other fine purveyors of fat.

Achieved goal: 74Kg.

Diet: Two all-natural peanut-butter-and-honey-sandwiches on homemade seed bread, two generous slices of Panforte made from a recipe by David the American pastry chef in Paris, two dozen dates, two slices of dense, home-made apple cake the recipe of which I do not have because my sister-in-law offered them to me and I didn’t ask, two generous handfuls of mixed nuts, or what they call here in Germany: Student Feed.

One 500ml bottle of Weizenbier.

Six litres of water.

12 and a half hours’ worth of fresh air

Biking: Pump your tires to maximum recommended pressure.  Check and oil the chain if need be.  Wear bike shorts!  If you’re setting out to ride 185Km in one day – about three times what you’re used to –  you want your tush to be comfy.

Have a blinking light for the rear to display even during the daytime to turn on for those portions of the trip you’ll be riding along roads with no shoulder and traffic screaming by at 100km/h.

Bring toilet paper.  Beware of stinging nettles.

Get up at daybreak and have a couple cups of coffee, then get going.  You want to arrive before sundown.  It might help to bring a map.

Ride along a set path you’ve studied carefully both online and in various maps from just north of Osnabrück to Buxtehude through farmers’ fields, moorscape, beech forests, pine forests, along narrow paved roads lined with centuries-old oak, past cornfields, tobacco fields, ancient barns, haystacks and wedding announcements made of haystacks.

You’ll also be greeted by great, gagging waves of concentrated, liquified pig manure as you continue through the endless green and over railway tracks, six-lane Autobahn and bridges great and small, get lost a couple of times, curse under your breath at the uselessness of viamichelen.com which recommends you take a right down Doktorstrasse in some Hintertürverkehr town that ends in a cul-de sac blocked by a 150-year-old building, find your way again, get lost again, finally get on the right track and continue through ever-changing landscape dotted with pheasant, deer, hare, birds of prey, herons, dairy cows, sheep, horses, chickens and many, many cats out on the prowl for that elusive rodent.

Give up trying to count the number of wind turbines you pass.

Curse once again viamichelin.com for listing streets you must take, when, in fact, the street either does not exist or is not posted on any sign.

Ask locals for directions.  They are friendly and helpful!

Thank the fact you’re travelling northeast and getting pushed the whole way with prevailing winds, without which the trip would be unthinkable.

Curse yourself for having left your camera’s memory chip in the computer, so all you have is 8Kb of internal memory with which to take a few incredibly crappy photos for this post.

Thank that you had the good sense to buy a new mountain bike to replace the one you rode to Bremen in the opposite direction.

Stop and have lunch on a bed of dry, crackling beech leaves looking up at the blanket of foliage blocking out the daylight and marvel that in only a few weeks it will all be gone and the long northern winter you’ve been trying so hard not to think about will surely be upon us.

Ignore pains in the knee and the feeling you might be developing a Charley horse in both thighs.  Breathe deeply.

Call your wife and ask her to take that bottle of beer out of the basement and stick it in the fridge because you want to think about it sitting there waiting as a reward for your day’s efforts.

Don’t tell her your legs hurt.

Ask yourself just how many kilometres getting lost and having to swing around to find the proper route added on to the official total of 185km.  Arrive at a round number of 200km, give or take five.

Ask yourself if cycling so far in one day is that much of a good idea.

Weigh yourself the next morning.  Voilà!  Three Kg. lighter.

This diet is not recommended for anyone over the age of 3 unless accompanied by a desire just to find out if you really can do it.

19
Jun
12

Such an awesome lunch we had at the Squamish White Spot

Seriously awesome.

A friendly staff member showed us to our table and as we settled down to look at the menu, our early twenty-something waiter came by.

“Hi, can I get you anything to drink to start?”

“We’ll all have coffee,” my brother Bruce said, “and my younger brother here will have some water.  He’ll have his coffee after, because he told us the other day that having coffee before a meal other than breakfasts is SO American.”

“Awesome,” said our waiter.  “I’ll be right back.”

By the time their coffee and my water came, we were ready to order.

“So, can I take your order now?

“Sure,” said Bruce. “I’ll have the Fat-free Triple-O Leanburger with lettuce and tomato, no mayo, please.”

“Awesome.  And for you, Sir?”

“I’ll have the baked potato,” I said.

“Awesome.”

And so it went.  For every statement resulting in the slightest need for a response, the first thing out of his mouth was, “Awesome.”

By the time he was so awesomely fetching our bill I started to imagine what tired, overused, meaningless bit of oral fluff he would be coming out with had we been suddenly slung back to the late sixties, when the land upon which the clean, bright White Spot stood – and in which we were now able to enjoy such an awesome lunch – would still for another 20 years be nothing more than a poorly drained swamp.

“Hi, can I take your order?”

“I’ll have the Triple-O Fatburger with extra cheese, bacon and mayonnaise and a side order fries with gravy, please.”

“Groovy, man!  And for you, ma’am?”

The thing is, I’d always thought Awesome was already passé, flung onto the heap along with the rest of the Neats, the Keens, the Cools, the Far-out-solid-right-on Hippie-dippie Weatherman stuff that so dates the user, even the worst offender avoids the aforementioned and please-just-let-it-stay-dead forever Groovy.

Apparently not.  You have to plunge right back into your home country to find out what people are talking about and how they’re saying it, so that’s what I did.  I vowed from then on to keep my ears open and listen to every waiter, bank teller, kiosk vendor, fast-food order-taker and clerk, taking note of every Awesome I heard in the short two weeks I’d be there.  I thought it might be fun to do a final tally, plotting the utterances onto an Awesomes per Hour chart.

But it was like going on a car ride as a kid back in the day before backseat Blu-Ray players, Playstations and Smartphones, when passing the time meant counting the cars coming the other direction.  After a few hundred or so, you just got tired of it.

20
Dec
11

House listing withdrawn as forest animals wreak havoc

A central Hamburg real estate listing has been withdrawn after forest animals were discovered gnawing away at the newly built house.  A black bear and two raccoons were found ploughing their snouts into the exterior trim as owners Wolfgang and Hildegudrun Schmeddlapp returned today from a woodcutting expedition.

“We couldn’t believe it,” wailed Herr Schmeddlapp.  “By the time we got home, they’d already eaten the door, window shutters, half of one side of the roof, and nearly an entire wall!”

The Smeddlapps, a Swabian back-to-the-land farming couple from Stuttgart, say they’d put their life savings into the house.  “Work-work-build-a-house.  That’s what they always told us to do in life.  It’s all gone now,” moaned Frau Schmedlapp. “Just look at the place.  We might as well have invested in Greek bonds for all it’s come to.”

Wildlife experts say it’s highly unusual for black bears to come out of hibernation to feed.

“They usually store up a lot for the winter,” said Bea Lotto of the Hamburg Tierschutzvereinunddingsbums.  “What we want to find out is why a house made with ginger and molasses, glued together with a mixture of egg white and icing sugar and decorated with Smarties, Gummy bears and those awful round things you get from Aldi around Christmas would attract bear and raccoon.  It’s a mystery.”

A banding found on one of the raccoons may give a clue to its origins and behaviour.

“If you look closely at the leg of that fellow up there on the left, he’s wearing an ID bracelet,” said Lotto.  “It’s highly unusual for a Waschbaer – err, sorry, raccoon – to be tagged.  It might be a clue he’s from Munich.  We’ll have to do a scat sample to check for Weisswurscht just to be sure, though.”

05
Sep
11

Cologne on high alert as Germany expat bloggers gather

by Dirk Dajerk

COLOGNE (CP)  A special task force has been set up in the western German riverside city of Cologne to prepare for what officials are calling “a catastrophe waiting to happen” as Germany’s band of English-speaking expatriate bloggers prepares to descend on the city in late October.  Police have already booked reinforcements from neighbouring Bonn and Aachen to help cope with the threat.

“They trash practically every place they visit,” moaned Cologne police desk sergeant Pensell Puscha.  “Just look at what they did in Dresden.”

Now generally known as the “Dresden Disaster,” in public safety circles, the 2007 bloggers’ meetup/donnybrook at the eastern German city on the Elbe is now used in training sessions as an example of how not to prepare for a visit from Germany’s English-speaking bloggers.

“Dresden was hit totally by surprise,” said Cologne city counsellor Bieriz Mylaff.  “By the time we called in for extra help, the rioting was totally out of control.  We’re definitely not going to let that happen to us.”

The annual bloggers’ meetup has grown from an informal gathering eight years ago of five online droolers desperate for the real-life company of anyone willing to tolerate for more than five minutes their tedious whining about the trials of expat life to an unwieldy gaggle of at least 25 who plan the event down to the last triviality for months in advance on three different platforms: their own blogs, an event website and discussion board, and now Facebook, that death of all blogs.  That’s not to mention the usual slurry of time-sucking drivel on Twitter.

“You’d think they could just decide they’re going to get together somewhere and have a few beers, but no-ooo,” lamented Cologne police detective Slyck Dyck. “From the morning after the last meetup ends they start planning the next one.  They plan side trips with Umlauts.  They plan Friday night dinners and guided tours the next morning.  They kick back for the afternoon, but that has to be planned, too.  They gather for a Saturday evening dinner and then go out to a frickin’ gay bar!  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Then they all have this thing they call brunch when they’re all hung over on the Sunday.   They even make allowances for kids, the annoying little brats.”

The choice of Cologne as a meeting point and the timing itself has been the subject of controversy ever since both were decided months ago in an online poll.

“Cologne?  Nothing but a massive pile of bricks, bells and gargoyles surrounded by whackos, clowns and an ugly shopping centre,” lamented one blogger from Hamburg.  “I haven’t even considered going there for years.  That part of Germany is so full of whores, they outnumber the cars!  Even the neighbouring city of Bonn has decided to take action, setting up parking meters so the city can recoup a few losses on the clean-up.

“And while we’re at it, what about the timing?  Why hold it at the end of October? It’s damn near winter!  Didn’t we decide a few years ago to hold it closer to summer so we could at least have half a chance to enjoy a warm evening or two?  November in Dresden, we had to burn buildings just to keep from freezing to death.”

Critics are also pointing out the dangers of just walking around Cologne, citing the tendency of entire buildings to suddenly collapse in on themselves, swallowing up irreplaceable manuscripts by, among others, Karl Marx and Heinrich Böll –  along with the odd human life or two.  They’re calling for safety checks to ensure visitors won’t end up in some sort of black hole.

Feeling stung by the criticism, organisers are scrambling to reassure attendees as well as the general public.

“We’re gonna have like, fun and stuff, so they should just lighten up, you know?” said one organiser.  “Besides, if they don’t like it they can just stay home.”

The Cologne engineering department is taking no chances as the group is set to storm the upper reaches of their famous cathedral sometime on the Saturday. “We’ve installed structural reinforcements, so we’re reasonably confident the building will withstand the extra burden of the lot of them humping up those stairs to the upper reaches,” said chief city engineer Helmut Askew.  “We’ve also taken the precaution of installing audio reminders at every level suggesting they look up from their smartphones once in a while at the amazing artwork surrounding them.”

Participants are expected to hold a vigil in memory of one member who has been to every meetup since the beginning, but will no longer be attending.  J, or J for short, has finally decided that Germany – or at least Bonn – indeed does suck, and has voted with his feet accordingly.

J’s absence will most be felt on Saturday evening when the evening’s traditional gay bar outing will take place.

“He never really used to know whether we were in a gay bar,” said one blogger, “and so we had to remind him that yes, indeed, we were in one, even though he might not have realised it at the time.”

Other absentees include Eurotrippen, holder of much of the blame for the 2007 Dresden Disaster.  Having lived the expat life for a number of years, Eurotrippen and brood returned to the States in 2009 to become ex-expats, then returned to Germany not long after to become ex-ex-expats, but are now back in the States, finally having decided that the status of ex-ex-ex-expat is what they enjoy the most.  For now.

Any illusions the gathering is attended by all of Germany’s English-language blogging scene will be shattered by a brief Google search.  Perennial hold-outs include the culprits behind Observing Hermann, Planet Germany, Charlotte’s Web, Ich werde ein Berliner and some guy in Cologne itself who calls his kid His Holiness.  The Irish Berliner, voted in an informal poll of one as Germany’s most outstanding blog, is a newcomer to the no-show crowd.

“Well, that’s a good thing,” said one Cologne officer. “The damage would be much worse if they showed up, too.”




The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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